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China’s space probe snaps its first images of Mars

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China's space probe snaps its first images of Mars

BEIJING – China’s maiden space exploration mission to Mars has captured its first image of the red planet, the space agency said on Friday, some six months after the probe left Earth.

The uncrewed Tianwen-1 took the picture at a distance of around 2.2 million km (1.4 million miles) from Mars, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), which supplied a black-and-white image.

The probe is now only half that distance away from Mars and around 184 million km from Earth after 197 days of the mission, the CNSA said in a statement, adding that its systems were in good condition.

The Tianwen-1 was launched in July from China’s southern Hainan island and expected to reach the orbit of Mars this month. In May, it will try to land in Utopia Planitia, a plain in the northern hemisphere and deploy a rover to explore for 90 days.

If successful, the Tianwen-1 will make China the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover in its inaugural mission to Mars, further boosting China’s space credentials after it last year became the first nation to bring back samples from the moon since the 1970s.

China previously made a Mars bid in 2011 with Russia, but the Russian spacecraft carrying the probe failed to exit Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.

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Russia launches satellite to monitor climate in Arctic

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Russia launches satellite to monitor climate in Arctic

MOSCOW – Russia launched its space satellite Arktika-M on Sunday on a mission to monitor the climate and environment in the Arctic amid a push by the Kremlin to expand the country’s activities in the region.

The Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average over the last three decades and Moscow is seeking to develop the energy-rich region, investing in the Northern Sea Route for shipping across its long northern flank as ice melts.

The satellite successfully reached its intended orbit after being launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome by a Soyuz rocket, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, said in a post on Twitter.

Russia plans to send up a second satellite in 2023 and, combined, the two will offer round-the-clock, all-weather monitoring of the Arctic Ocean and the surface of the Earth, Roscosmos said.

The Arktika-M will have a highly elliptical orbit that passes high over northern latitudes allowing it to monitor northern regions for lengthy periods before it loops back down under Earth.

At the right orbit, the satellite will be able to monitor and take images every 15-30 minutes of the Arctic, which can’t be continuously observed by satellites that orbit above the Earth’s equator, Roscosmos said.

The satellite will also be able to retransmit distress signals from ships, aircraft or people in remote areas as part of the international Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based search and rescue program, Roscosmos said.

“As more activity takes place in the Arctic and as it moves into higher latitudes, improving weather and ice forecasting abilities is crucial,” said Mia Bennett, a geographer at the University of Hong Kong.

“There is also an element of data nationalism that is feeding into all this. Countries, especially those that see themselves as space powers, want to be able to rely on their own satellites and data to inform their activities, whether commercial or military in nature,” she said.

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Judge approves $650M Facebook privacy lawsuit settlement

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Judge approves $650M Facebook privacy lawsuit settlement

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge on Friday approved a $650 million settlement of a privacy lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly using photo face-tagging and other biometric data without the permission of its users.

U.S. District Judge James Donato approved the deal in a class-action lawsuit that was filed in Illlinois in 2015. Nearly 1.6 million Facebook users in Illinois who submitted claims will be affected.

Donato called it one of the largest settlements ever for a privacy violation.

“It will put at least $345 into the hands of every class member interested in being compensated,” he wrote, calling it “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”

Jay Edelson, a Chicago attorney who filed the lawsuit, told the Chicago Tribune that the checks could be in the mail within two months unless the ruling is appealed.

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement so we can move past this matter, which is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders,” Facebook, which is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, said in a statement.

The lawsuit accused the social media giant of violating an Illinois privacy law by failing to get consent before using facial-recognition technology to scan photos uploaded by users to create and store faces digitally.

The state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act allowed consumers to sue companies that didn’t get permission before harvesting data such as faces and fingerprints.

The case eventually wound up as a class-action lawsuit in California.

Facebook has since changed its photo-tagging system.

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Facebook weighs adding facial recognition to smart glasses

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Facebook weighs adding facial recognition to smart glasses

Facebook is weighing whether to add facial recognition technology to the smart glasses it’s developing, one top executive says.

The tech titan plans to have a public discussion about the feature’s “pros and cons” in light of the ethical concerns it raises, according to Andrew Bosworth, the head of the company’s virtual and augmented reality division.

“It’s really a debate we need to have with the public,” Bosworth said during a Thursday Q&A on his Instagram page. “If people don’t want this technology, we don’t have to supply it. The product’s going to be fine either way.”

Bosworth spoke up publicly after BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook was examining whether it could legally build facial recognition features into the high-tech glasses it’s planning to roll out later this year.

During a company meeting on Thursday, one Facebook employee asked whether people could “mark their faces as unsearchable” when smart glasses become widely used given fears about the technology leading to “real-world harm,” according to the outlet.

In addition to those concerns, current state laws may prevent Facebook from allowing people who use its glasses to look up others based on images of their faces, Bosworth reportedly said in the meeting.

He noted on Twitter that facial recognition is a “hugely controversial topic and for good reason,” but said the technology has some good practical uses “if it could be done in a way the public and regulators were comfortable with.”

For instance, he said, it could help people who have prosopagnosia, a neurological condition that prevents them from recognizing others’ faces.

“More general is the party use case where you see someone you recognize but can’t place their name,” Bosworth tweeted. “Is it a huge deal? Of course not. But might be nice if you could have your memory jogged.”

Facebook is reportedly developing its smart glasses to rival similar wearable gadgets made by Snapchat and Amazon. They’re being built in partnership with the Ray-Ban specs brand and its parent company, Luxottica.

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