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Twitter Offers To Follow Topics, Singtel Among 5 Firms Fined For Data Breach & More News

This week in tech news: Singtel, Ninja Van among 5 firms fined by privacy watchdog over separate data breaches, AI ‘too dangerous' to be released to world rolled out and Twitter now lets you follow topics, not just accounts.

Tech news you need to know, in three minutes or less.

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Singtel, Ninja Van among 5 firms fined by privacy watchdog over separate data breaches

Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) has fined five companies here a total of S$177,000 for leaking customer data. The data leaks originated from app design flaws, poor website security, and nonexistent data security practices. In a statement published on Monday (Nov 4), PDPC identified the companies like Singtel, Ninja Van, EU Holidays, Marshall Cavendish, and SearchAsia Consulting.

Telco Singtel has been fined $25,000 for a data breach involving its My Singtel mobile app, according to a decision released on Monday (Nov 4) from the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), Singapore’s official privacy watchdog and enforcer of the Personal Data Protection Act. Separately, Ninja Logistics - which operates goods delivery startup Ninja Van - was fined $90,000 for leaving up to 1.26 million individuals’ data exposed to website users, in a decision also out on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Education vendor Marshall Cavendish was fined S$40,000 after ransomware infected 11 servers containing the birth certs, IC numbers and schooling details of over 250,000 students. EU Holidays was fined S$15,000 after a user saw customers’ personal information while browsing the site for holiday packages. The names, passport details, addresses, and mobile phone numbers of over 1,000 customers were exposed. Recruitment agency SearchAsia Consulting was fined S$7,000 after the submitted resumes of job seekers became publicly searchable on the Internet.

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OpenAI has published the text-generating AI it said was too dangerous to share

The research lab OpenAI has released the full version of a text-generating AI system that experts warned could be used for malicious purposes. The institute originally announced the system, GPT-2, in February this year, but withheld the full version of the program out of fear it would be used to spread fake news, spam, and disinformation. GPT-2 was created for a simple purpose: it can be fed a piece of text and is able to predict the words that will come next. By doing so, it is able to create long strings of writing that are largely indistinguishable from those written by a human being. But it became clear that it was worryingly good at that job, with its text creation so powerful that it could be used to scam people and may undermine trust in the things we read.

The idea of an AI that can mass-produce believable fake news and disinformation is understandably unnerving. But some argued that this technology is coming whether we want it or not and that OpenAI should have shared its work immediately so that researchers could develop tools to combat, or at least detect bot-generated text. OpenAI has also developed a tool that can, 95% of the time spot AI-generated text. But they say it should be used in conjunction with basic human judgment, and public education. Since then it’s released smaller, less complex versions of GPT-2 and studied their reception. Others also replicated the work. In a blog post this week, OpenAI now says it’s seen “no strong evidence of misuse” and has released the model in full.

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Twitter is ‘rewriting conversation’ with new topics option

Twitter said Wednesday it is rolling out a feature that lets users follow topics the way they do people, starting with sports and K-pop, as part of its efforts to bring in and keep more users on the service. The new “Topics” option was expected to be available to Twitter users on mobile devices powered by Android or Apple software or through web browsers by Nov 13. The idea of the new Topics feature is similar to Instagram allowing users to follow hashtags. At first, Twitter will let you follow around 300 topics, and the list is expected to expand in the future. Politics isn’t a topic you can follow just yet, though, and that’s probably because Twitter doesn’t want to get itself involved in another political controversy.

The feature was to be rolled out internationally as the one-to-many messaging platform prioritises being an online venue for conversations rather than a pulpit for one-way broadcasting to the masses. “We are basically rewriting the entire conversation service,” Twitter product team leader Kayvon Beykpour said during a briefing at the company’s San Francisco headquarters in August. Twitter has always let users follow accounts but the new feature will let users opt into following certain sports teams or categories on a curated list. Topics people follow will show up in their profiles as long as they are signed up for the interest.

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