Tiangong-1 Crash Coming: Should You Be Worried?

China's prototype space station, Tiangong-1 or "heavenly place," is falling to Earth and could re-enter the atmosphere as soon as this week.

While most of the eight-ton spacecraft is expected to burn up as it plummets through the atmosphere, there is a chance some of it will survive all the way down to the surface.

Should I Be Worried?

No. The chances of being hit by part of the space station are basically zero.

About 70% of the Earth is covered with water and most of the rest of it is sparsely populated. If any of the space station does reach the surface, it is incredibly unlikely it will hit any person, let alone you. In 1997, a woman was struck on the shoulder by an object, believed to be part of a Delta rocket. But she was not injured. She is thought to be the only person ever struck by spaceship debris.

In terms of size, Tiangong-1 is only the 50th largest spacecraft to come down, and there have been no recorded deaths or injuries from people being struck by debris from any of them. The largest uncontrolled entry was SkyLab, the 77-ton US space station, which disintegrated over Western Australia. It didn't injure anyone but large parts of it were later collected.

China has not released all the details about the design of Tiangong-1, so it is not possible to say how much of it will survive re-entry. In 2011 Nasa calculated the chance of a smaller 6.5-ton object striking someone was about one in 3,200. That means the chance it would hit any particular person -- you, for example -- is about one in 21 trillion. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely way to die.

Where Is It Most Likely To Crash?

It is orbiting at about 27,000km/h, so a...

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Cisco Pledges $50M To Fight Silicon Valley Homelessness

Cisco on Monday pledged $50 million to fight homelessness in Silicon Valley in what appears to be the largest donation ever made by a local company in response to the growing crisis.

The money, to be distributed over five years, will go toward building extremely low-income and supportive housing in Santa Clara County, funding homelessness prevention programs such as skills training and rent assistance, and improving the technology and data collection used by homeless organizations, according to the company. Cisco has contributed the first $20 million already, through the Cisco Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

With an estimated 7,394 homeless people living in the county as of January 2017, pressure is mounting for a solution to the problem festering in the midst of Silicon Valley's tech industry-fueled prosperity.

"There's been unparalleled success in the tech community, particularly here in Silicon Valley," Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins (above) said Monday from the stage of The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. "There's an increasing divide between the success and those that are struggling in the community."

While other Silicon Valley tech companies have put money toward sheltering the homeless and building affordable housing, Cisco's massive contribution is likely the first of its size, said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, which will distribute the $50 million donation. The sum even dwarfs donations that corporations, foundations and other private entities across the nation have given to fight homelessness.

"Cisco recognizes we need to have a community that is thriving and working for everyone who lives here," Loving said in an interview, "and they have taken this really incredibly bold move to invest in Silicon Valley poverty and homelessness to a degree that we have never seen before."

Destination: Home is part...

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Watch Out, Facebook: EU Data Rules May Have Broad Impact

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is promising to do a better job protecting user data following reports that a political consultant misused the personal information of millions of the company's subscribers. The fact is, European regulators are already forcing him to do so.

A similar data breach in the future could make Facebook liable for fines of more than $1.6 billion under the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation, which will be enforced from May 25. The rules, approved two years ago, also make it easier for consumers to give and withdraw consent for the use of their data and apply to any company that uses the data of EU residents, no matter where it is based.

The law is the latest attempt by EU regulators to rein in mostly American tech giants who they blame for avoiding tax, stifling competition and encroaching on privacy rights. European analysts say GDPR is the most important change in data privacy regulation in a generation as they try to catch up with all the technological advances since 1995, when the last comprehensive European rules were put in place. The impact is likely to be felt across the Atlantic as well.

"For those of us who hold out no hope that our government will stand up for our rights, we are grateful to Europe," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor at the University of Virginia who studies technology and intellectual property. "I have great hopes that GDPR will serve as a model for ensuring that citizens have dignity and autonomy in the digital economy. I wish we had the forethought to stand up for the citizen's rights in 1998 (the start of Google), but I'll settle for 2018."

The U.S. has generally taken a light touch approach to regulating internet companies, with concerns about stifling the technology-fed economic boom...

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Google Assistant May Get Custom Routines for Smart Home Control

Google may be set to open up even more control of smart home commands to users of its Google Assistant helper. Code found in the latest beta release of the Google app suggests that custom Routines (the smart home instruction tool kits that let a single command trigger multiple device functions) could be soon rolling out to the system as a whole.

Routines already exist within the Google app, but are limited to presets to be tweaked, rather than having the option to build them from scratch as looks set to be offered here.

Complete Control

Custom Routines would give the user the ability to program a series of events to play out with a given trigger word, such as turning the heating on and closing motorized blinds for 'movie time.'

Other new features that could be set to hit the general release of the Google app includes sticky sporting result cards during crucial games for teams that you follow, and new gesture controls for the Pixel Buds.

As ever with beta tests, there's no guarantee that these features will get a general release. But custom Routines have long been requested by those living in Google's smart home ecosystem, so here's hoping that one makes the cut.

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Apple Takes Aim at Google’s Chromebooks with Low-Cost iPads for Schools

Currently, the U.S. market for education-focused devices is dominated by Google's Chromebooks. But Apple, which has also targeted schools with a variety of offerings, appears likely to make a new attempt to challenge Google's position when it announces a new product during a "field trip" to Chicago tomorrow.

At the event, set to take place at 10 a.m. Central Time at Chicago's Lane Tech College Prep High School, Apple will unveil "creative new ideas for teachers and students," according to an invitation the company sent on Friday. The agenda is expected to include news about a low-cost iPad for education as well as an announcement about new Apple software designed for school use.

Apple, which normally unveils new products at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, last held an off-site education event six years ago in New York City. In December, the company announced it was working with the city of Chicago to bring its Everyone Can Code program to public school students.

Low-Cost iPads as Chromebooks Alternative?

Despite a number of education-focused initiatives, Apple has struggled to establish a strong foothold for its devices in schools. In fact, Google's Chrome operating system has grown over the past few years to achieve a 58 percent share of the K-12 mobile computing market in the U.S., according to research released by Futuresource Consulting earlier this month.

"The strong combination of affordable devices, productivity tools via G-Suite, easy integration with third party platforms/tools, task management/distribution via Google Classroom and easy device management remains extremely popular with US teachers and IT buyers alike," Futuresource reported on March 2. "The rise of Chromebooks has also set new industry benchmarks with regards to average device pricing, with prices reaching as low as $120 on certain projects."

Apple's event in Chicago tomorrow could herald the arrival of an entry-level iPad...

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Report: Facebook Saves Extensive Call, Text Data from Android Users

On the same day Facebook bought ads in U.S. and British newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social media site faced new questions about collecting phone numbers and text messages from Android devices.

The website Ars Technica reported that users who checked data gathered by Facebook on them found that it had years of contact names, telephone numbers, call lengths and text messages.

Facebook said Sunday the information is uploaded to secure servers and comes only from Android users who opt-in to allow it. Spokeswomen say the data is not sold or shared with users' friends or outside apps. They say the data is used "to improve people's experience across Facebook" by helping to connect with others.

The company also says in a website posting that it does not collect the content of text messages or calls. A spokeswoman told the Associated Press that Facebook uses the information to rank contacts in Messenger so they are easier to find, and to suggest people to call.

Users get the option to allow data collection when they sign up for Messenger or Facebook Lite, the Facebook posting said. "If you chose to turn this feature on, we will begin to continuously log this information," the posting said.

The data collection can be turned off in a user's settings, and all previously collected call and text history shared on the app will be deleted, Facebook said.

The feature was first introduced on Facebook Messenger in 2015 and added later on Facebook Lite.

Messages were left Sunday seeking comment about security from Google officials, who make the Android operating system.

Reports of the data collection came as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out ads in multiple U.S. and British Sunday newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The ads say the social media platform doesn't deserve to hold personal...

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Report: Facebook Saves Extensive Call, Text Data from Android Users

On the same day Facebook bought ads in U.S. and British newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social media site faced new questions about collecting phone numbers and text messages from Android devices.

The website Ars Technica reported that users who checked data gathered by Facebook on them found that it had years of contact names, telephone numbers, call lengths and text messages.

Facebook said Sunday the information is uploaded to secure servers and comes only from Android users who opt-in to allow it. Spokeswomen say the data is not sold or shared with users' friends or outside apps. They say the data is used "to improve people's experience across Facebook" by helping to connect with others.

The company also says in a website posting that it does not collect the content of text messages or calls. A spokeswoman told the Associated Press that Facebook uses the information to rank contacts in Messenger so they are easier to find, and to suggest people to call.

Users get the option to allow data collection when they sign up for Messenger or Facebook Lite, the Facebook posting said. "If you chose to turn this feature on, we will begin to continuously log this information," the posting said.

The data collection can be turned off in a user's settings, and all previously collected call and text history shared on the app will be deleted, Facebook said.

The feature was first introduced on Facebook Messenger in 2015 and added later on Facebook Lite.

Messages were left Sunday seeking comment about security from Google officials, who make the Android operating system.

Reports of the data collection came as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out ads in multiple U.S. and British Sunday newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The ads say the social media platform doesn't deserve to hold personal...

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Cybercrime Gang Broken Up in Spain, Mastermind Arrested

Police in Spain have captured a cybercrime gang made up of Ukrainians and Russians that allegedly stole more than 1 billion euros ($1.24 billion) from financial institutions worldwide in a five-year spree, authorities said Monday.

The gang's alleged mastermind, identified as a Ukrainian and named only as "Denis K.," was arrested in the coastal city of Alicante, 350 kilometers (220 miles) southeast of Madrid, according to statements issued by Spanish police and European Union law enforcement agency Europol.

Three suspected accomplices, said to be Russian and Ukrainian, were also arrested. Authorities didn't say when the arrests took place.

The gang used malware to target more than 100 financial institutions worldwide, sometimes stealing up to 10 million euros in each heist. Almost all of Russia's banks were targeted, and about 50 of them lost money in the attacks, authorities said.

The gang sent phishing emails with a malicious attachment to bank workers, Europol said. The software gave the gang remote control of infected machines, providing them with access to the internal banking network and infecting servers controlling ATMs.

ATMs were instructed to dispense cash at a pre-determined time, and the money was collected by organized crime groups supporting the main gang.

The gang converted its illicit gains into bitcoins and used the cryptocurrency to purchase assets, including houses and vehicles, in Spain.

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Cybercrime Gang Broken Up in Spain, Mastermind Arrested

Police in Spain have captured a cybercrime gang made up of Ukrainians and Russians that allegedly stole more than 1 billion euros ($1.24 billion) from financial institutions worldwide in a five-year spree, authorities said Monday.

The gang's alleged mastermind, identified as a Ukrainian and named only as "Denis K.," was arrested in the coastal city of Alicante, 350 kilometers (220 miles) southeast of Madrid, according to statements issued by Spanish police and European Union law enforcement agency Europol.

Three suspected accomplices, said to be Russian and Ukrainian, were also arrested. Authorities didn't say when the arrests took place.

The gang used malware to target more than 100 financial institutions worldwide, sometimes stealing up to 10 million euros in each heist. Almost all of Russia's banks were targeted, and about 50 of them lost money in the attacks, authorities said.

The gang sent phishing emails with a malicious attachment to bank workers, Europol said. The software gave the gang remote control of infected machines, providing them with access to the internal banking network and infecting servers controlling ATMs.

ATMs were instructed to dispense cash at a pre-determined time, and the money was collected by organized crime groups supporting the main gang.

The gang converted its illicit gains into bitcoins and used the cryptocurrency to purchase assets, including houses and vehicles, in Spain.

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FTC Confirms Facebook Investigation as Stock Prices Plunge

The Federal Trade Commission confirmed Monday that it has an opened a "non-public" investigation into Facebook Inc.'s privacy practices.

The social media giant's stock quickly dropped more than 5%. It's now down more than 20% from its Feb. 1 high.

The FTC's announcement comes after reports last week that the agency was investigating Facebook over the widening controversy involving Cambridge Analytica. That data analytics firm tied to the Donald Trump presidential campaign accessed 50 million Facebook users' information without those users' knowledge, allegedly in an effort to influence voters.

Bloomberg News reported last week that the FTC was looking into whether Facebook had violated terms of a 2011 consent decree in which the tech giant agreed to get users' permission for certain changes to privacy settings.

The FTC's confirmation that it is investigating Facebook is the latest of the social media giant's problems after the New York Times and British newspaper the Observer reported that Cambridge Analytica had aimed to use Facebook user data in an attempt to sway voter opinions.

The data originated from a personality quiz app developed in 2013 by a Cambridge University researcher. About 300,000 people took that quiz, and the researcher was also able to access "tens of millions of their friends' data" based on how Facebook's platform worked at the time, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said last week in a post on his Facebook page.

Zuckerberg said he learned two years later from journalists at the Guardian that the Cambridge researcher had shared the data from his app with Cambridge Analytica, a move that violates Facebook policies. Zuckerberg said that Facebook banned the personality quiz app from its platform, demanded that the researcher and Cambridge Analytica "formally certify" they had deleted all of the improperly obtained data, and received those certifications.

Lawmakers have called for Zuckerberg to testify in front...

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