What’s new in tech
All out of Klout
Klout, the social media firm that ranks people’s influence online, is shutting down on May 25, said Sean Gallagher in ArsTechnica.com. The service, which assigns a 0-to-100 score based on how much attention a person’s Twitter and Facebook posts receive, had a brief heyday around 2012, when it won an investment from Microsoft and an arrangement to show Klout scores in Bing search results. But the service shed users as people questioned its “rampant harvesting of personal data and the questionable nature of Klout’s algorithm.” Lithium, the social media metrics firm that bought Klout in 2014 for about $100 million, said the May 25 implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which gives consumers more control over their data, would have required a costly overhaul of the service.
Secret commands for Siri and Alexa
Someone “might be secretly talking” to your Amazon Echo smart speaker, said Craig Smith in The New York Times. Researchers in the U.S. and China have demonstrated that it’s possible to send instructions “undetectable to the human ear” to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant by hiding commands in white noise or within recordings of music or spoken text. “While a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.” In the wrong hands, the technology could “be used to unlock doors, wire money, or buy stuff online.” Experts say there is “no evidence that these techniques have left the lab,” but it may only be a matter of time “before someone starts exploiting them.”
California’s solar mandate
California could soon become “the first state to require solar panels on nearly all new homes,” said Erin Ailworth in The Wall Street Journal. Its state energy commission approved a mandate last week that all residential buildings up to three stories high, including single-family homes, be built with solar installations from 2020. The commission estimates that the requirement will add $9,500 to the average cost of a home in the state, which is the No. 1 solar market in the country. Solar makes up less than 2 percent of U.S. electricity output, but California is “a bellwether” on energy-efficiency issues. The proposal needs final approval from California’s Building Standards Commission, but that panel has traditionally adopted the energy commission’s recommendations.