Google releases a searchable database of US political ads

In an effort to provide more transparency and deliver on a promise to Congress, Google just published an archive of political ads that have run on its platform. Google’s new database, which it calls the Ad Library, is searchable through a dedicated launch page. Anyone can search for and filter ads, viewing them by candidate name or advertiser, spend, the dates the ads were live, impressions and type. For anyone looking for the biggest ad budget or the farthest reaching political ad, the ads can be sorted by spend, impressions and recency, as well. Google also provided a report on the data, showing ad spend by U.S. state, by advertiser and by top keywords.
The company added a bit of context around its other recent ad transparency efforts:
Earlier this year, we took important steps to increase transparency in political advertising. We implemented new requirements for any advertiser
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RideAlong is helping police officers de-escalate 911 calls with data designed for the field

RideAlong keeps people in mind, and that’s a good thing. The company, founded by Meredith Hitchcock (COO) and Katherine Nammacher (CEO), aims to make streets safer, not with expansive surveillance systems or high-tech weaponry but with simple software focused on the people being policed. That distinction sounds small, but it’s surprisingly revelatory. Tech so oftens forgets the people that it’s ostensibly trying to serve, but with RideAlong they’re front and center. “The thing about law enforcement is they are interacting with individuals who have been failed by the rest of society and social support networks,” Nammacher told TechCrunch in an interview. “We want to help create a dialogue toward a more perfect future for people who are having some really rough things happen to them. Police officers also want that future.” Ridealong is specifically focused on serving populations that have frequent interactions with law enforcement. Those individuals are
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Facebook is the recruiting tool of choice for far-right group the Proud Boys

Twitter may have suspended the Proud Boys and their controversial leader Gavin McInnes, but it was never their platform of choice. The Proud Boys, a self described “Western chauvinist” organization that often flirts with more hard-line groups of the far right, runs an elaborate network of recruiting pages on Facebook to attract and initiate members. While McInnes maintained a presence on many platforms, Facebook is the heart of the group’s operations. It’s there that the Proud Boys boast more than 35 regional and city-specific groups that act as landing pages for vetting thousands of new members and feeding them into local chapters. When it comes to skirting the outer boundaries of social acceptability, McInnes could teach a master class. The Vice founder and Canadian citizen launched his newest project in 2016, capturing a groundswell of public political activity on the far right and launching the Proud Boys, a men’s club allied
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Some Infowars tweets vanished today, but Twitter didn’t remove them

A handful of tweets and videos that appear to have been cited in the choice to remove Alex Jones from Facebook and YouTube vanished from Twitter on Thursday after being called out in a CNN piece focused on the company’s hypocrisy. Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that it did not remove the tweets in question and that someone affiliated with Alex Jones and Infowars or with access to those accounts is behind the removal. The tweets in question spanned the Infowars brand, including accusations that Sandy Hook was staged by crisis actors, slurs against transgender people and a video asserting that Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg is a Nazi. All of the tweets CNN linked are no longer available, suggesting that Jones might be trying to walk a narrow line on the platform, keeping most of the Infowars content up even as users and reporters surface some of its most objectionable
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Outgoing Facebook CSO Alex Stamos will join Disrupt SF to talk cybersecurity

At Disrupt SF 2018, Facebook’s soon-to-be-former chief security officer Alex Stamos will join us to chat about his tenure in the top security role for the world’s biggest social network, how it feels to have weathered some of the biggest security and privacy scandals to ever hit the tech industry and securing U.S. elections in the 2018 midterms and beyond. Following his last day at Facebook on August 17, Stamos will transition to an academic role at Stanford, starting this September. Since March, Stamos has focused on election security at Facebook as the company tries to rid its massive platform of Russian interference and bolster it against disinformation campaigns aiming to disrupt U.S. politics. “It is critical that we as an industry live up to our collective responsibility to consider the impact of what we build, and I look forward to continued collaboration and partnership with the
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Twitter defends its decision to keep the Alex Jones conspiracy factory around

[Heavy sigh] Twitter is doing that thing again. That thing where it stands by an incoherent policy choice that is only consistent with its long historical record of inconsistency. Late Tuesday, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey took to the platform to defend his company’s choice to keep manic conspiracy theorist and hatemonger Alex Jones and his Infowars empire alive and tweeting. Last week, that choice wouldn’t have turned heads, but after a kind of sudden and inexplicable sea change from all of the other major social platforms over the weekend, Twitter stands alone. To be fair, those social platforms didn’t really assert their own decisions to oust Jones — Apple led the pack, kicking him out of its Podcasts app, and the rest — Facebook, Spotify and YouTube, most notably — meekly followed suit. Prior to its new statements, Twitter justified its decision to not ban Jones first by telling journalists like
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Coinbase adds instant trading and increases daily limits

Coinbase just announced two new perks that should please regular cryptocurrency traders. Starting on Tuesday, new Coinbase users will no longer have to wait out for five days to trade after signing up for the exchange. As the company explained in a blog post:
… When someone makes the decision to sign up, they don’t want to wait days before they can start buying cryptocurrency. While we do support instant transfers via wire transfer and debit cards, purchases via direct debits from your bank account can take days to appear. With this update, customers will receive an immediate credit for the funds being sent from their bank account. They can then buy and sell crypto to and from their USD wallet right away, but cannot send their funds off the Coinbase platform until the funds coming from their bank have settled.
With the new trading restriction lifted, Coinbase is also
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Activists push back on Facebook’s decision to remove a DC protest event

A number of activists and organizers in the Washington, DC area are disputing Facebook’s decision to remove a counter-protest event against a rally organized by Jason Kessler, the white nationalist figure who planned the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va. Facebook removed the event, “No Unite the Right 2-DC,” after discovering that one account connected to the event exhibited what Facebook calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The company defines this activity as “people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing.” The Facebook page at the center of the controversy was called “Resisters.” TechCrunch confirmed that the Resisters page was created by “bad actors,” as defined by the company, who coordinated fake accounts to deceive users. Facebook ultimately removed the No Unite the Right 2-DC event due to its known interaction and engagement with the Resisters page and maintains
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Facebook really doesn’t want users to go to a fake Unite the Right counter-protest next week

According to COO Sheryl Sandberg, getting ahead of an event called “No Unite the Right 2, DC” is the reason behind Facebook’s decision to disclose new platform behavior that closely resembles previous Russian state-sponsored activity meant to sow political discord in the U.S. “We’re sharing this today because the connection between these actors and the event planned in Washington next week,” Sandberg said, calling the disclosure “early” and noting that the company still does not have all the facts. A Facebook Page called “Resisters” created the event, set to take place on August 10, as a protest against Unite the Right 2 — a follow-up event to last year’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va. that left peaceful counter-protester Heather Heyer dead. The Page, which Facebook identified as displaying “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” also worked with the admins from five authentic Facebook Pages to co-host the event and arrange transportation and
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Facebook has found evidence of influence campaigns targeting U.S. midterms

In a newsroom post Tuesday, Facebook revealed that it has detected evidence of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” designed to influence U.S. politics on its platform. According to Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, the company first identified the activity two weeks ago. So far, the activity encompasses eight Facebook Pages, 17 profiles and seven accounts on Instagram. Facebook stated that the activity “violate[s] our ban on coordinated inauthentic behavior” though so far is unable to attribute the activity to Russia or any other entity with an interest in influencing U.S. politics. Facebook has been in contact with Congress and law enforcement about the discovery, which suggests that social platforms should expect to again detect the kind of coordinated disinformation campaigns targeted the 2016 election around U.S. midterm elections this November. The company stated that more than 290,000 accounts followed one of the Pages it identified. The
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Mammoth Biosciences raises $23 million for its CRISPR-based disease detection engine

Mammoth Biosciences, the biotech company that grew out of a close relationship with CRISPR legend Jennifer Doudna, has raised $23 million in a sturdy Series A. Mammoth previously raised $120,000 from NFX and the company continued quietly picking up funding as it built toward its exit from stealth mode in April 2018. Its current round was led by Mayfield with participation from NFX and 8VC. Mammoth also has some high profile interest from individual investors. Apple’s Tim Cook and Jeff Huber, former CEO of early cancer screening company Grail, also quietly participated in the round for an unspecified amount. The discovery of CRISPR, by all accounts a transformative scientific and technological breakthrough, is many things to many people, but for Mammoth Biosciences, it’s all about the search functionality. “CRISPR is biology’s search engine first,” Mammoth co-founder and CEO Trevor Martin told TechCrunch in an interview. That means using a
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MoviePass is down again

After the revelation that MoviePass borrowed $5 million to keep its service up and running last week, things aren’t looking good. MoviePass subscribers, myself included, were met on Monday with a blank screen where their choice of screening should be. Navigating around dozens of theaters only shows a message that “There are no more screenings at this theater today.” Twitter noticed too and people are starting to sound the death knell for the beleaguered monthly movie subscription service. Some MoviePass theaters that offer e-ticketing still appear to have available showings according to Twitter users, but that doesn’t appear to be true across the board. Plenty of companies fail, but few flail so publicly before doing so. MoviePass has dragged its subscribers on for its own apparent financial rollercoaster ride, switching pricing schemes around with bizarre frequency, adding surprise fees and suffering repeated outages.

Google’s lead lawyer moves into a global policy role

Google is promoting its top lawyer, Kent Walker, into a global policy position, CNBC reports. Walker, Google SVP and general counsel, has already been a public voice in the company’s recent privacy tangles, but will move into a formal role as senior vice president of global affairs, overseeing Google’s policy, trust and safety, corporate philanthropy and legal teams. Last year, Walker joined Richard Salgado, Google’s Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security, to head to Capitol Hill for the first round of reckoning on big tech’s failure to mitigate political disinformation campaigns during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Since then, Walker has commented publicly on Google’s policies around political ad transparency and extremist content on YouTube, among other policy issues facing the company. With social platforms at an ethical crossroads globally and tech chafing at its newly forced compliance with international privacy laws, any public-facing global policy role will be
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Idaho inmates hacked prison-issued tablets for $225,000 in credits

Inmates in Idaho successfully hacked the software of the prison-issued tablets to issue themselves nearly a quarter of a million dollars in credits on the devices that are often one of their only connections to the outside world. The tablets, made by prominent prison vendor JPay, give inmates the ability to use email, listen to music and transfer money, among other basic computing functions but charge fees for some services. The Associated Press reports that Idaho prison officials discovered 364 inmates leveraging a software vulnerability to increase their JPay account balances. In Idaho, the devices are the result of a partnership between JPay and CenturyLink. The latter company confirmed the software vulnerability but declined to offer further details beyond stating that it had since been resolved. Of the 364 inmates exploiting JPay, 50 inmates were able to issue themselves credits for more than $1,000. One inmate was able to
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Russian hackers already targeted a Missouri senator up for reelection in 2018

A Democratic senator seeking reelection this fall appears to be the first identifiable target of Russian hacking in the 2018 midterm race. In a new story on the Daily Beast, Andrew Desiderio and Kevin Poulsen reported that Democratic Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill was targeted in a campaign-related phishing attack. That clears up one unspecified target from last week’s statement by Microsoft’s Tom Burt that three midterm election candidates had been targeted by Russian phishing campaigns. The report cites its own forensic research in determining the attacker is likely Fancy Bear, a hacking group believed to be affiliated with Russian military intelligence. “We did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks, and we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for elections in the midterm elections,” Burt said during the Aspen
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Tech companies can bid on the Pentagon’s $10 billion cloud contract, starting today

On Thursday, the Pentagon opened bidding for a huge cloud computing contract that could be worth as much as $10 billion. Given its size, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, known as JEDI, is alluring for major cloud computing companies that might not normally do much business with the Department of Defense. Announced in March, JEDI is structured as a winner-take-all contract with a potential 10-year term, though the Pentagon clarified that the original award will span just the first two years, so all 10 years aren’t set in stone up front. While it’s not yet sparked the same level of outcry as Google’s AI contract with the Pentagon known as Project Maven, JEDI isn’t uncontroversial. The now infamous Project Maven was a smaller, more specific contract with direct implications for the military’s use of drones, while JEDI is broader and bigger, seeking a vendor to provide cloud
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You can buy the NES Classic and SNES Classic on Amazon now

If you missed the first few rounds of excitement about Nintendo’s mini nostalgia machines, you’ve got another shot at paying a normal price. Nintendo’s NES and SNES Classic consoles aren’t always easy to find, but they’re now available from Amazon for $59.99 (NES Classic) and $79.99 (SNES Classic). You can place an order for either right now, though be aware that the NES Classic won’t ship until it’s back in stock on August 12 and the SNES Classic looks like it’ll be back on August 3 — a pretty reasonable wait for a sure thing. Update: It looks like Amazon’s stock of the NES Classic may have already run out in the course of the last few minutes, though the SNES version is still available at its normal retail price of $79.99 (and let’s be real, it was the best console). They seem to be dropping
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Indian H-1B applicants face particular scrutiny in Trump’s work visa crackdown

Coming to the U.S. on a work visa is getting harder across the board, but workers from India in particular are feeling the effects of recent policy shifts from the Trump administration. A new report from the National Foundation for American Policy sheds light on how the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order from April 2017 has impacted H-1B applicants in the last year. The H-1B visa, popular in Silicon Valley, lets skilled foreign workers live and work in the U.S. for a six year term. For the three months period starting in July 2017, H-1B denial rates went from 15.9% to 22.4%. In the same time period, Requests for Evidence seeking additional documentation in the fourth quarter of 2017 nearly equaled the total amount of Requests for Evidence from the year’s other three quarters combined (63,184 and 63,599 requests, respectively). Drilling down, workers from
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Healthcare data breach in Singapore affected 1.5M patients, targeted the prime minister

In what’s believed to be the biggest data breach in Singapore’s history, 1.5 million members of the country’s largest healthcare group have had their personal data compromised. The breach affected SingHealth, Singapore’s biggest network of healthcare facilities. Data obtained in the breach includes names, addresses, gender, race, date of birth and patients’ national identification numbers. Around 160,000 of the 1.5 million patients also had their outpatient medical information accessed by unauthorized individuals. All patients affected by the hack had visited SingHealth clinics between May 1, 2015 and July 4, 2018, Singapore newspaper The Straits Times reports. “Investigations by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Integrated Health Information System confirmed that this was a deliberate, targeted and well-planned cyberattack,” a press release from Singapore’s Ministry of Health stated. “It was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs.” The hackers appear to have accessed
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Instagram adds a status indicator dot so people know when you’re ignoring them

In a blog post today, Instagram announced a new feature: a green status dot that indicates when a user is active on the app. If you’re cruising around Instagram, you can expect to see a green dot next to the profile pics of friends who are also Instagramming right then and there. The dot will show up in the direct messaging part of the app but also on your friends list when you go to share a post with someone. Instagram clarifies that “You will only see status for friends who follow you or people who you have talked to in Direct” so it’s meant to get you talking more to the people you’re already talking to. You can disable the status info in the “Activity Status” bit of the app’s settings menu, where it’s set to on by default. Prior to the advent of the green dot, Instagram
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