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How online dating is changing who we marry in unexpected ways

Thanks to the rise of numerous dating apps and sites, such as TinderOKCupid or Match.com, dating culture has experienced a significant shift over the past two decades.

» RELATED: Tired of swiping for love? This new dating app sends you straight to the first date

And though online dating has received its fair share of bad press with accusations of fueling hook-up culture, stories of scam artists and of first dates gone wrongnew research shows online dating has influenced the nature of society in some positive ways.

>> Read more trending news

For their study, economics professors Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria examined how online dating has changed the racial diversity of society.

» RELATED: Report: Every 3 hours, an online dater gets scammed

The authors hypothesized that internet dating services may be a driving force behind stronger marriages, interracial partnerships and a primary way for people to connect with those outside their social circles.

“Understanding the evolution of interracial marriage is an important problem, for intermarriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our societies,” the authors told MIT Technology Review.

They created a simulated model network of men and women of different racial backgrounds in which everyone wants to marry a person of the opposite sex, but can only marry someone with whom they have a connection.

» RELATED: Atlanta ranked among worst cities for dating 

The model is a reflection of society, which Ortega and Hergovich said is essentially “a web of interlinked nodes.”

According to the professors, most people are connected to close friends and family (and some others) with about 100 nodes. And changing the network, like building new highways, can completely change how the network functions, they said.

» RELATED: What happened the year interracial marriages increased more than 400% in Georgia?

“Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small,” Ortega and Hergovich told MIT Technology Review.

They then compared the model results with the rates of interracial marriage in the U.S.

Since the 1967 Loving v. Virginia U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized marriage across racial lines, intermarriage has increased steadily, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2015, Pew found that 1 in 6 American newlyweds (17 percent) married a person of a different race or ethnicity. In 1967, only 3 percent did.

“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” they said.

But it’s possible that, as MIT Technology Review noted, the reduction in the percentage of white Americans was a contributing factor in the rise of interracial marriages in the U.S.

» RELATED: RE:Race – AJC staffer Pete Corson on interracial marriage

Still, research authors said the change in the population’s composition can’t fully explain the huge increase in intermarriage.

Overall, according to Pew research, more and more American adults (approximately 39 percent in 2015) say interracial marriage is generally good for American society.

In 2010, 24 percent of American adults said it was a positive trend.

More from Pew Research Center.

The professors’ model also predicted that marriages established online are more robust and less likely to end in divorce, a hypothesis backed by previous research from the University of Florida in 2013.

The pre-published version of the study is available online at arxiv.org and is currently undergoing its full peer-review process.

Another Equifax hacking possible as web page taken down

In what could be yet another incident of hacking, Equifax has taken down a web page because of suspicion that it had been manipulated.

>> Read more trending news

The site, one of the embattled company’s customer service offerings, was delivering fraudulent updates for Adobe Flash, which – when clicked – would infect a visitor’s computer with unwanted software, according to a security analyst and the technology web site Ars Technica.

Equifax officials on Thursday confirmed that it had taken down the web page, but did not confirm the rest of the report or offer other details.

“We are aware of the situation identified on the equifax.com website in the credit report assistance link,” the company said. “Our IT and Security teams are looking into this matter, and out of an abundance of caution have temporarily taken this page offline.”

Is Facebook down? Users report problems worldwide

Thousands of social media users across the globe reported that Facebook was down on Wednesday morning.

>> Read more trending news

Instagram users also reported problems with the photo sharing social media site starting around 11:05 a.m. EDT, according to downdetector.com, a website that tracks site issues.

Problems with Facebook first surfaced around 8:20 a.m. EDT, according to downdetector.com. A map compiled by the website showed reports were most prevalent in the United States, Europe and parts of South America.

AOL retiring its pioneering Instant Messenger app

Web company AOL announced the end of an era on Friday: Come December, the company’s groundbreaking Instant Messenger program will be retired.

>> Read more trending news

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was the first chat application of its kind when it launched in 1997.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” said Michael Albers, vice president of communications products at Oath, AOL’s parent company. “As a result we’ve made the decision that we will be discontinuing AIM effective December 15, 2017.”

Users will no longer be able to sign into AIM starting Dec. 15, and all data associated with the app will be deleted thereafter, according to AOL. Users can save their images, files and chat history before then.

People who have email addresses under the aim.com domain name will still be able to access email as usual, according to AOL.

Company officials said in an FAQ about the change that no replacement app is in the works.

“Thank you to all of our AIM users,” Albers said. “We are more excited than ever to continue building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products for users around the world.”

When this asteroid comes close to earth, NASA has plans straight out of the movies

An asteroid is set to brush past Earth in a few weeks, and NASA is preparing a cool defense test in response.

>> Read more trending news

According to Newsweek, TC4 will fly as close at 27,000 miles to the Earth, about one-eighth of the distance between the Earth and the moon, giving scientists the opportunity to test its planetary defense systems in the event an asteroid or other hazardous object makes its way toward Earth. The asteroid is expected to pass the Earth on Oct. 12.

>> On Rare.us: Here are the amazing records astronaut Peggy Whitson recently broke in space

“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterize and learn as much as possible about it,” explained Dr. Michael Kelley, a scientist working on the TC4 observation campaign, according to the Daily Mail. “This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat.”

Scientists first began tracking TC4 in 2012.

Whole Foods: Customer payment info hacked at stores

Whole Foods Market said Thursday that customer payment information at some of the grocer’s in-store bars and restaurants was hacked.

>> Read more trending news

The company did not immediately say how many customers or stores might be affected, but said payment information was not hacked at its primary checkout counters because they use a different operating system.

“When Whole Foods Market learned of this, the company launched an investigation, obtained the help of a leading cyber security forensics firm, contacted law enforcement, and is taking appropriate measures to address the issue,” the company said in a written statement.

Whole Foods, which was recently purchased by online retailer Amazon, also said that Amazon’s system was not affected.

Most of Whole Foods’ more than 460 stores do not have in-store bars and restaurants. The ones that do are usually in or near larger cities. 

It’s unclear when the hack happened and when exactly Whole Foods learned of it. Whole Foods did not respond to a message left, seeking additional comment.

The company said it would continue to investigate the matter and provide updates when it has more information. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

Equifax to offer free credit freezes for life, new CEO says

Equifax’s new interim chief executive said the company is planning to offer a new life-long credit freeze service for free by the end of January.

>> Read more trending news

Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who was named the company’s new CEO on Tuesday, announced that move Thursday, along with other efforts to improve its problem-plagued response to a massive data theft affecting 143 million Americans.

“On behalf of Equifax, I want to express my sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach,” Barros said in an op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. “People across the country and around the world, including our friends and family members, put their trust in our company. We didn’t live up to expectations.” 

According to a news report, Barros’ op-ed was not initially available on Equifax’s website on the security breach, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, but the site now has a link to it.

>> Related: Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

In a move that could put pressure on the other two major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, to offer similar life-long freezes, Barros said Equifax plans to offer a free service by Jan. 31 that will “let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will.”

With the service, he said, “the cybercrime business will become a lot more difficult.”

Equifax’s efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal, one of the worst any company in the U.S. has faced.

Next week, former Equifax CEO Rick Smith is expected to be grilled before Senate and House committees looking into the breach.

>> Related: Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Some lawmakers are calling for “clawbacks” of Equifax executives’ pay. Smith, who retired Tuesday, leaves the company with at least $48.9 million in stock awards and benefits accumulated during his 12-year tenure at the company.

Barros said the company is also extending the deadlines to the end of January for the free credit freezes and credit monitoring services it offered in the wake of the hacking incident. The company initially set up a one-month sign-up window after the data theft was disclosed on Sept. 7.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Afterwards, panicked consumers swamped Equifax's call center and website. Many said they weren't able to sign up, or Equifax's employees couldn't answer some questions. Thursday, Equifax's website indicated the problems continue.

“We are currently experiencing difficulties with our TrustedID website. As a result, the site may be unavailable periodically, and we are working hard to help reduce interruptions,” the company said on its website.

Barros said the company is working on fixing its website and adding more call center employees and additional training.

“We have to see this breach as a turning point — not just for Equifax, but for everyone interested in protecting personal data,” he said.

 

Facebook to give Congress Russian-linked 2016 election ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the social media company will turn over to Congress thousands of ads believed to have been bought by Russian agents attempting to influence last year’s presidential election.

>> Read more trending news

Facebook officials said earlier this month that more than 3,000 ads were uncovered that ran between 2015 and 2017 and appeared to have come from a Russian entity that aimed to influence the election.

Amazon building smart glasses powered by Alexa, report says

Amazon is working on its first wearable device: a pair of smart glasses that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to be summoned any time, anywhere, according to the Financial Times.

>> Amazon baby registry emails baffle customers who aren't expecting

The device, which would tether wirelessly to a smartphone, is designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles so it can be worn comfortably and unobtrusively, sources told the Times.

>> Read more trending news

A bone-conduction audio system would allow the wearer to hear Alexa without having to insert headphones into their ears.

Read more here.

Report: Feds investigating top Equifax executives’ stock trading

The Department of Justice is investigating three top Equifax executives’ stock trades to see whether they violated insider trading laws, according to a media report Monday.

>> Read more trending news

Bloomberg reported that the federal agency probe is focused on Equifax’s chief financial officer and the presidents of two business units who sold a combined $1.8 million in stock in early August, days after the company learned of a massive security breach, but before it was made public.

A company representative said the executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time.”

But company officials told investors that they had “promptly” informed their board of directors of the incident.

>> Related: Federal probe launched after Equifax data breach

Typically, top executives at public corporations use pre-programmed stock sales through a so-called 10b5-1 plan to avoid accusations of illegal insider trading. But the three executives’ stock sale disclosures filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that their stock sales were not pre-scheduled.

Earlier this month, Equifax, one of the nation’s three key credit-tracking bureaus, disclosed that hackers stole Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of 143 million people.

>> Related: Equifax, software maker blame each other for opening door to hackers

Equifax said the breach occurred from mid-May to late July, when it was discovered. The executives sold their stock a few days later, in early August.

The company has been swamped with consumers’ efforts to freeze their credit profiles in the wake of the data breach, according to consumer experts and people who have tried.

Friday, Equifax announced that two top executives were retiring, but none were among the three who disclosed large stock sales after the data breach.

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