Tech News Weekly 318 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

0:00:00 - Mikah Sargent
Coming up on Tech News Weekly. I kick off the show this week with a couple of stories about passwords. First it's about LastPass requiring at minimum a 12-character master password and 23andme saying look, it's not our fault that your data was stolen. Then I interview Sam Abul-Samad of Wheel Bearings, the podcast. Sam joins me to talk about how there are fewer cars receiving a tax credit if you go to purchase an electronic vehicle. Then Florence Ion of Gizmodo stops by to talk about Roku getting into that pro lineup with its latest round of TVs and how it will adjust the picture using AI. We round the show out with another story of the week, this time about the New York Times lawsuit against open AI and how well there's a lot involved with copyrights and where AI comes into it, especially when it comes to the system simply reading the data and not actually taking it and using it itself. All of that coming up on Tech News Weekly.

0:01:15 - Mikah Sargent
This is Tech News Weekly episode 318, recorded Thursday, January 4th 2024. Explaining The NY Times OpenAI lawsuit. This episode of Tech News Weekly is brought to you by Lookout.

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Hello and welcome to Tech News Weekly, the show where, every week, I talk to and about the people making and breaking the tech news. I am your host, Mikah Sargent. It's time to kick things off with our first show of January and our first show of 2024. With that, we're actually going to kick things off with a story of the week, that's more of a theme of the week. We're talking about passwords, folks.

Passwords are important.

Here's the thing we are increasingly hearing that the end of the password is nigh.

Right that there are, because we're about to move into a time where we can use special encrypted sort of blessings that say, okay, I'm me and I have a device that proves that I'm me and so I can log into this website because I have this special device that tells you that I am me, that we won't have to worry about passwords anymore. Right, that these pass keys are the way of the future, but it's slow going, very slow going, in fact, and there, while we are increasingly seeing a number of sites add support for pass keys and we're moving toward that, it's still not quite there and I think it's going to take some time. When I anecdotally hear from individuals who exist outside of our little realm the realm of people who listen to tech podcasts and make tech podcasts and enjoy tech podcasts, I hear folks who are annoyed every time Google pops up and says hey, you know that password you have. Why don't you replace it with a pass key? Everything's going to be better if you do that. And then they're hitting cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel.

It's the same folks that the software update pops up and they just hit the X on it and, frankly, we have to be honest with ourselves that, honestly, that's most people. So I think we're still a ways out from everybody understanding what the heck a pass key is and actually wanting to use a pass key. We may all be very excited about it I'm certainly excited about it but I don't know how long it's going to take for us to actually get there. So, with all of that in mind, we have to talk about passwords, because they're still here. They're still the main way that well, arguably the main way that people use to access accounts these days is by hitting that I forgot my password link and then getting a new link from their email, which they then go to the site, set up a new password that they immediately forget and the next time they visit the site, they use that I forgot my password link again. But outside of the folks who are doing that, they are using a password and so we've still got those absolutely in hand.

And last pass you may have heard of last pass they, of course, in 2022, had a horrible, horrible security breach that involved just the loss of so much data of so many of it, of its customers, and because of that, over time, the company is still going and still making the service, still working on the service, and they have finally said that when you have a last pass account, you are required to have, at the minimum, a 12 character master password. So here's the here's the thing. Back in 2022, when this breach took place, if you tried to make a last pass account after the breach was disclosed and all that happened, you had to set a password that was 12 characters at minimum. But for people who had created an account before that time, they were not required to have a 12 character minimum password. They were grandfathered in to poor security, which is interesting. That has changed. If you have a last pass account and you have a password that is less than 12 care, is fewer than 12 characters then you will be getting a notification soon, if you haven't already, letting you know that you will need to set a stronger password. This is important because the longer the password in theory, the stronger the password.

There's a lot that goes into it. If you have a password that's a series of words and those words right next to each other are common, then it is more likely that your password could be cracked. The idea here is that if a password cracker is trying to do that, it's going to look at the common patterns for letters, how they would appear next to each other. So the word read EA, those are more likely to appear together in English, and so there's a lot that goes into it. But point is, if your password is longer than 12 characters, then it gets even more and more complex for that password to be guessed and therefore brute force hacked. It also just means that those characters which are used to encrypt and decrypt your own password vault. There's a lot more data that's involved there, so it makes sense.

Last pass is trying to make sure that if you're continuing to use the service, for whatever reason, that you are doing it in as secure a state as possible. I want to point to a number of security now episodes that have talked about the last pass breach and have talked, post the last pass breach, how folks can be even more secure. So there's lots of advice on top of setting a longer, stronger password, also making sure that you have multi-factor authentication and that you use a stronger form. What is it? Pbkdf2, a stronger form of encryption, etc. So there is a lot that you need to do, but at the very least, last pass is requiring that you set a stronger password.

Also, in the realm of passwords, what do you do if a company's data is breached and you are a victim of this data breach and you feel that you are owed some level of return on the damages that you may have experienced? Probably you could get involved in a class action lawsuit or some other form of lawsuit. And what if, in return, the company chooses to blame the people whose data was stolen for the data being stolen? That is the case in the 23andMe data breach. So I talked about it on this very show that 23andMe, which, of course, is the DNA sort of ancestry understanding system, looks at your DNA and tells you what components you have, what your history looks like, based on your genetic and ancestral data, and then it also tells you things like oh, you are more likely to have back hair and you are more likely to have brown eyes and all these other traits and certain genetic conditions. It does it all.

So what happened was the way that the 23andMe breach took place involved gaining access to the accounts of some users who may have not had two-factor authentication, almost certainly did not have two-factor authentication turned on and also had weak or reused passwords. So a bad actor would have gotten the password, gotten the username that they used for their 23andMe accounts, accessed it and because 23andMe has this special feature that's called DNA Relatives, then what would happen is those bad actors would gain access to these weaker accounts and then gain access to even more information from people who were linked to the DNA Relatives feature. So what the DNA Relatives feature did is it said. For example, if I sent in my SWAW to 23andMe, signed up for my account, I could say share my genetic information, some of it, with people who are related to me. And so if my cousin, for example, was on the service and wanted to be able to sort of strengthen their profile and have more information in their profile, then when the service linked us, when 23andMe linked us together, knowing that we were cousins, my cousin would have access to some of my data. I would have access to some of their data. We could compare and perhaps get even more understanding of our history. That is actually a real thing. That did happen. One of my first cousins I found out was using the service and what did not happen. But in this case, say, my cousin had monkey123 as a password and their username was their email. It had been breached somewhere else. That data was out there. The bad actor logged in, typed in monkey123, their email, and then were able to get my information that I had shared because they had access to this weaker account, whereas I had two-factor authentication turned on, et cetera.

So what 23andMe is doing now after, according to TechCrunch, it's facing more than 30 lawsuits from victims of this data breach, it is saying that it is the fault of the folks whose data was stolen that this happened. According to one of the lawyers involved in one of the lawsuits, quote. Rather than acknowledge its role in this data security disaster, 23andme has apparently decided to leave its customers out to dry, while downplaying the seriousness of these events. They are basically saying it was not a result of 23andMe's alleged failure to maintain reasonable security measures, but instead it was because quote users negligently recycled and failed to update their passwords.

Following these past security incidents, which are unrelated to 23andMe, here's the thing. I hate to say this, but there's a part of me that understands where the company is coming from. If you make a service and you have an account system and you are doing everything that you're supposed to do, that your data itself is secure, that it wasn't the case of last pass, where someone was fished and then from there they gained access to all this stuff. Everything you have is locked down tight. It's all good to go, but instead it is because one of the users on the service had a weak password. The bad actor gained access to that, which then gave them access to more stuff. That is what 23andMe is pointing out that there were no data security issues on our side at least, the company says we maintained those security measures but that this was instead the fact that the weak and reused passwords that had been put out there in other ways are at fault for causing this.

Here's the thing If someone gets punched in the face by accident and you are looking at them and then you say to them you know, if you weren't standing right there when that person was coming by who accidentally punched you in the face, then you wouldn't get punched in the face. That person who's in pain is not going to take that well, not going to receive that very well. The last thing they need to hear is like a mixture of I told you so, and here's what you could have done differently. I get where 23andMe is coming from and I get the need to explain that, while this was a data breach, it wasn't a breach that was the result of a security incident. That needs to be explained, but it's almost because of the way that it was a reply to these lawsuits that are in place. I don't know how this is going to go when it comes to the lawsuits.

I don't know what perhaps 23andMe should have done in the first place. I think the best thing the company could have done is to say we have DNA information and it is very private. If you choose to make a 23andMe account, you have to have two-factor authentication. Just by default. It has to be two-factor authentication has to be turned on, maybe like last pass. They also say your password for this needs to be a long and strong password. That is probably, in hindsight, something that the company could have thought to do.

But yeah, there's a part of me that says look, we did our due diligence in making sure that our account, our services, were secure, and if the data was accessed through some other means, that's not really on us. I'm of two minds about this for sure. It's really kind of a difficult thing because at the same time, I feel for anyone who's involved in this, but I more importantly think that the truth and the actuality of the circumstances are what need to be out there. When this first launched, when this was first announced and this breach was put out there, there was a lot of fear that the system itself had been attacked, that 23andMe's own servers had had their data stolen. As it makes its way through the media, it starts to be diluted, and you don't necessarily diluted not diluted you don't necessarily have all of the information. 23andme needs to do its due diligence to make sure that everyone understands how this data was taken.

Again, I'm of two minds there, but ultimately, the way I'll wrap up this segment is to say, as we always do on this network you should be using a password manager. First and foremost, get your family and friends to use a password manager. Absolutely Bitwarden, a sponsor on the network is a great choice. If you can't or won't or refuse to use a password manager, at the very least make sure that each of your accounts has a different password so that if one is breached, one somehow gets put out into the dark web. It alone is the only account that a bad actor would have access to, and not suddenly have access to your entire life. That is our first story of the week Down.

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All right, we are back from that break and, through the magic of the media, we're going to go back in time to an interview I had yesterday. Well, it is time once again to talk about electric vehicles. This time, you know, when I say this, you might go hmm, sounds like it's going to be a boring thing. No, no, no, it's not. It's, I think, very important and, as is always the case when I talk to this individual, it always ends up being more interesting than you might expect. This time we're talking about electric vehicles and the changes that are taking place in terms of possible tax credits. Joining us to chat about all this is our very own car guy himself. It's Sam Abul-Samid. Welcome back to the show, sam.

0:21:14 - Sam Abuelsamid
Hey, Mikah, it's great to be back with you, and happy New Year and happy New Year to everybody watching.

0:21:20 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, yeah. Happy New Year to you. Happy New Year to you all.

0:21:22 - Sam Abuelsamid
And what could possibly be boring about EVs and the IRS?

0:21:28 - Mikah Sargent
So actually that is my first question. I want to get into the tax credits and sort of that whole system, but I was kind of curious. So it sounds like the IRS is responsible for determining the possible tax credit. You can think of it. Okay, your business card sigh. More importantly, I think, to me is is there someone or some group within the IRS that actually knows a thing or two about Electric vehicles? Who's actually responsible for this? Or is it much like the, the sort of state of Tech regulation, in the sense that it's sort of Folks way down the line that are trying to explain it to the people in charge and hope that the laws that get set are locked in? I'm sort of editorializing a little bit.

0:22:10 - Sam Abuelsamid
So I'll let you take it away. Well, I think you know in this case, I Don't think people in the within, I don't think anybody in the IRS necessarily needs to know a whole lot about EVs or EV technology, because it's more of an accounting issue. You know, the in 2020, your 2022, the, the inflation reduction act changed around the way that the tax credit scheme Works for electric vehicle purchases in the United States. So it used to be prior to August of 2022 that essentially the first 200,000 EVs that a consumer that are manufacturers sold were eligible for tax credits up to $7,500 per vehicle and at the federal level and there was no other real criteria what the IRA. They changed it around. They eliminated that cap, so now there's no limit on how many vehicles a manufacturer sell, but they did put in some other restrictions that were meant to try to encourage manufacturers to localize production of EVs.

So you know, onshore them in the United States or North America, as well as Onshore the production of the batteries and the battery materials, because up until now, even for the batteries that have been built in North America, most of the materials have been processed overseas. So the key raw materials, like lithium and nickel and manganese and cobalt Stuff like that was coming from overseas, and so the goal was to try to Get as much of that moved onshore you know, domesticated as possible. What that? What that means is that Initially, in the first couple of years of this new Tax credit program, it's made it a lot tougher for Vehicles to qualify. So to qualify, an EV has to be has to have final assembly in North America, so Canada, us or Mexico and a certain percentage of the battery components and the battery what they call critical minerals is that Just mentioned lithium, cobalt, manganese, etc. Have to also be sourced from either North America or From a country that we have a free trade agreement with. So countries like Australia or North Korea or Chile and the. Then there was one other criteria in there that explicitly says Any materials that come from a country that is on the entities of concern list, which talked about in the past Disqualify is not does not qualify, and there's four countries on that list Russia, north Korea, iran and China.

China is the the big one because China is the biggest market for EV. So a lot of this, a lot of these materials, even if they're not necessarily mined in China, have been processed at plants in China and then brought over here, and that's why, all of a sudden, as of this week, a whole bunch of the cars that qualified in 2024, or twice, or 2023 no longer qualified for tax credits because that China provision went into effect starting January 1st of this year. So there's a bunch of vehicles that have at least some amount of Chinese components or materials that disqualify them from the credits. So vehicles like the Chevy Blazer EV, the Cadillac Lyric, the and a number of other vehicles that previously qualified no longer qualified. So now we have a much shorter list of cars that are that are qualified for the tax credits.

0:26:09 - Mikah Sargent
So I've got a few questions here. First and foremost is are there situations where someone I guess I'll ask this so I? The last time I purchased a vehicle would have been 2011, and, and so I have very little knowledge of just the car purchasing Process in general? But, more importantly, when it comes to tax credits, the the extent of my knowledge of how this works or is anywhere near. It is like when I've gone to a hardware store, they have these little rebates that you can get get for. It's kind of like that. So how long between the time when someone purchases a vehicle and and like how long do they have to get a tax credit? And is it possible, I guess, for someone to have purchased one of these vehicles that now no longer has a tax credit? Well, people have lost out, I guess. Is is my question.

0:27:09 - Sam Abuelsamid
So the way it has worked. Then this is another very important change that went into effect on January 1st. That was part of the IRA up until now, from the time these, these tax credit programs started in I think, 2008 or 2009 the. The way it worked is when you buy a vehicle, you pay the full purchase price up front and then the following year when you file your tax return, there's a box on there where you can apply for the tax credit and get that up to $7,500 tax credit that comes off of your tax bill the following year. So if I bought one in January of 2023 when I file my taxes you know, sometime between now and April 15th I would I would do that on my tax return for 20 for 2023 year Starting January 1st. One of the really one of the big changes that is actually a real benefit is that now Customers, car buyers, can actually get that credit as a point of sale rebate essentially, and the way that works is car dealers can register with the IRS and Then when they for dealers that do that and a roughly about half of car dealers In the US, I think, have registered for that program they often they get that they get to offer that tax credit as a rebate right point of sale.

So if you're buying a $40,000 EV, now all of a sudden it becomes a 32 and $32,500 purchase, which is great, because in the past, the tax credit would never do, would never have any impact on your monthly payment, because most people aren't paying cash. So you would be financing whatever amount of $40,000 you know as apart from your down payment, and so you'd have a higher monthly payment. Now you have, you're gonna have a lower monthly payment, which should make EVs more affordable to consumers, and so that's For the vehicles that still qualify. You can do that, so you'll get that, that credit right away, and then the dealers File the paperwork with the IRS and they get the refund from the IRS for that tax credit amount To your question about you know if somebody Bought a car in 2023, so you know if I bought an EV, you know in December of 2023 that qualified in 2023, that still qualifies.

So when you, when you know the next couple of months, when you file your tax return, you'll still get that tax credit. So you, you don't lose out on that, for you know it's only vehicles purchased after January 1st where, where these other changes come into play, that makes sense.

0:29:54 - Mikah Sargent
Another thing that I'm kind of curious about you mentioned that this was all part of the that bigger package, right, the budget packaging With that. That. I'm curious how long have car manufacturers add to Try to resource components? And then, just in general, can you tell us kind of what your expectation is on whether car manufacturers are Super incentivized by this program, meaning that they will work to make more of these batteries and other components fall in line with the plan so that More cars that they're selling can have that tax credit, or do you think it's a big deal for them? I mean, I for as a consumer totally get it and you would think that as a company then they would want to. But what, what do you think in terms of is it worth it to them versus continuing to source those components elsewhere?

0:30:47 - Sam Abuelsamid
Yeah, no, it's definitely worth it and you know how long it will take depends a lot on the specifics of the component or the materials. Yeah, it's. It's a bigger problem on the critical minerals side of it Because you know we have, you have to get sourced and and the industry has been developing domestic sources of these materials, of lithium and nickel and and other other materials. But that's a process that takes time, it could take multiple years and you know there there's a percentage of A percentage share. So, like this year for the critical minerals has to be 40% of the critical minerals value has to be domestically sourced and that goes up 10% a year each year. But To to the the question of you know, other components, some of those could be a matter of weeks or months. For example, gm, you know, for some of the vehicles that qualified last year and now don't, they've said that they they've been working on it. They should be back eligible again within the next few months. So, oh, wow, hopefully, hopefully by spring. But you know, again, it depends on the specific components.

One of the challenges has for the industry has been that the IRS didn't issue their guidance on exactly how the accounting has to be done until fairly late in 2023, like late November, when that came out and there there had been some expectation, or some hope, at least that At least some there would be some minimal tolerance for some Chinese components. For example, you know one or two percent of the value of the battery. You know in that case that would be considered. You know, okay, that's okay, you can, you can use that. You don't have to resource those. As it turns out, the IRS said no, it's zero percent, because that's basically what the IRA the law said is it didn't. It didn't a prop up account, it didn't Provide for any minimal amount. It basically says anything from countries on the entities list, disqualified. So there, you know these, the companies are scrambling to resource components where they can. I Guess.

0:33:09 - Mikah Sargent
The last question I have here is why do we think it's EVs that are getting this focus? For, you know, because when we look at it from the sort of government perspective, it feels a lot like it's a way for the government to make sure that the US does not have as much reliance on these foreign powers, for, in this case, evs in particular. So, because the government is aware of an understanding of the fact that EVs are the next step, why do we think the focus is there versus being, I don't know, the cardboard industry, where we decided that that couldn't be made with foreign components going forward and we don't have the reliance there? Does that question?

0:33:55 - Sam Abuelsamid
make sense. Yeah, so there's a couple of different things going on here. One is the whole geopolitical issue of, you know, because so much of the value you know a third of the value of an EV is in the battery, and so they really wanna have that produced domestically, you know. So there's the geopolitical tensions with certain other countries. But there's also the sustainability issues. You know, today, you know, up until recently, you know, most of the lithium, for example, has been extracted in South America and Australia and then processed in China and then shipped to North America. Well, you know, if you are taking lithium out of the ground in South America, you're putting it on a boat, taking it to China and then bringing it back to North America. There's a lot of emissions just in transporting all that stuff. And so if you're really trying to address sustainability issues that's an important part, you know is to shrink that supply chain. And then, you know, also shrinking, especially with what happened over the last few years with supply chain issues. You know, just improving the resilience of the supply chain, having more diversity of where you can get materials from, will help a lot in ensuring that we don't have so many disruptions like we had during the course of the pandemic.

One other thing I wanna mention about the tax credits all of this stuff that I've talked about is based on. If you're buying a new EV, there is a loophole in the IRA that I don't think was intended, but it's there which is for commercial vehicle transactions. They did not have those criteria for where the batteries are sourced from, so the way the law has been interpreted is if it's a commercial transaction, then you can still get that tax credit, and so one way that they can do that is for manufacturers to lease the vehicles. If they lease it, they're actually selling that vehicle to the leasing company whether it's their captive finance arm like Ford Credit or GM Financial or whatever else and then that company is leasing it to the customer, and so, because that's a commercial sale, they still get the tax credit, regardless of where the battery comes from. And so most manufacturers are saying they're passing through that $7,500 tax credit.

So if you want to get an EV that's not on the list of the stuff that qualifies for a purchase, if you lease it, then you can still get that tax break on it. And then there's also something else that was new as part of the IRA was the credit for used EVs. So if you buy a used EV up to $25,000 in value, you can get a credit of up to $4,000 or 30% of the purchase price of the car. So if you buy a $25,000 used EV, you can get $4,000 back on that as a tax credit, which makes those vehicles a lot more affordable, wow.

0:37:24 - Mikah Sargent
Okay, wow, good tip there with the leasing and then, furthermore, with the used vehicle market. Well, sam, thank you so much for your time today for digging into this and helping us understand, kind of, why vehicles have dropped off and what we can expect in the future. If folks want to keep up with what you're doing, where are the places they can go to do that?

0:37:45 - Sam Abuelsamid
So my day job is an analyst at Guidehouse Insights. You can find our work at guidehouseinsightscom. You can also find stuff that I write, vehicle reviews and stuff on Forbescom and, of course, the Wheel Bearing Podcast at Wheel Bearing Stop Media with Roberto Baldwin and Nicole Wakelin. We do that every week and we talk about the cars we're driving and some of the big news items of the auto industry every week.

0:38:12 - Mikah Sargent
Awesome. Well, thank you for your time, happy new year, and I'm sure I'll see you again soon.

0:38:17 - Sam Abuelsamid
And I'll hopefully talk to you again soon, Mikah. I have a great day.

0:38:21 - Mikah Sargent
All right. Thank you again to Sam Abul-Samad for joining me Up. Next, we're going to talk about new TVs and a company that was once known for budget stuff perhaps entering the pro market. Before we do, though, I want to take a quick pause to tell everyone that it's that time again time for the TWIT audience survey. This annual survey helps us understand our audience, so we can make your listening experience even better, and it'll only take a few minutes. You just go to, because, yes, it is 2024 to take it. Don't wait, because the last day to take the survey is January 31. Twittv slash survey 24. And we'd love to hear from you, love to hear your thoughts and get to know our audience out there. So, thank you so much. All right, we are back from the break, and that means it's time for our next guest joining us from Gizmodo. It's Florence Ion. Hello, Flo.

0:39:24 - Florence Ion
Hi Mikah, I'm doing well. How are you? Happy New.

0:39:27 - Mikah Sargent
Year. Happy New Year to you too. I'm doing well. I hope you are getting lots of vitamin C and sun and whatever else you need before you head to CES.

0:39:37 - Florence Ion
Not getting sun, but I'm definitely trying to be horizontal as much as I can before I have to be vertical. Good, good, I like that, that's good.

0:39:46 - Mikah Sargent
So you know what? There's a segue in there somewhere. I guess TVs go vertically on your wall, so maybe that's the segue. Anyway, I happened to cross your piece the other day about Roku entering the pro series market and I just want to learn about this because Roku for the longest time has kind of been the alternate to the Apple TV. When someone's asking me for a recommendation for a set top box, I have tended to suggest that they get a Roku box. But over time Roku has created televisions and you know, at one point was just kind of like being built into televisions made by other. I mean, they've kind of done it all, but now they've got TVs. Let's start by talking about this new lineup and what folks can expect in terms of size and the technology that's built in, before we get into AI, which is also involved.

0:40:47 - Florence Ion
Oh my gosh. Yes, ai is the big buzzword of the of 2024, right, and it started last year. We're going to see a lot of it at CES. But first, so you know, there's a new selection of Roku pro TVs that are going to debut this spring. We don't have, like, the exact timeframe just yet, but we know they're coming out. So Roku is like save your money. The good news is that you won't have to save a ton of money, because these TVs are all going to be under $1,500, which is again Roku going after its Primo like customer base.

When I think of Roku, I think of the brand that I can go to a Walmart or a Target and buy. I don't think about, you know, going to like a really specialized tech store or something of the sort. I don't think about going to a brand I think about. Roku is the one you can buy right off the shelf, and I think that's kind of what they're going for. They're going to be offering three sizes a 55 inch, a 65 inch and a 75 inch. So pretty standard for, like, the living room TV, the big kahuna that you have in the house to watch everything on, and they've also got some pretty good like tech in it. They're all going to be a 4k Q, oled, q, oled, q. I'm just going to leave it at that. They've also got many L D, many LED backlighting. There's going to be like really rich. You know, they're promising rich contrast, rich colors, like kind of the same experience that you would get with a high end TV that you would buy on the other side of the aisle at Target.

0:42:19 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, right, yes, when you look at this side, you see those really expensive ones. You look this way and you see, but now you can get that even in these, these less expensive options. And, like I have a TCL Roku TV that I bought a long time ago.

0:42:35 - Florence Ion
I also do.

0:42:36 - Mikah Sargent
And I was always impressed with the quality of the display. Even for that, you know it offered all of the rich blacks and everything else that was involved. Of course I didn't have the Q LED and the mini LED, everything that it has now. But I guess what I'm saying is this company seems to have a pretty good track history of being more budget while still maintaining high quality, and you mentioned kind of a comparison to the Samsung frame. Tell us about that.

0:43:06 - Florence Ion
I did, well I.

So, first of all, I also want to say just about that TCL TV.

I was very, you know, it's been very interesting to see what Roku is doing in the tiniest packages, right, and or I should say, with the most affordable packages they they're going to. Basically, what they were doing with this particular, the Roku pro, is that they're making them so that they're more flush against the wall, and it's very much, in my mind, a playbook from the Samsung design team, because the frame became very popular because it was a TV that didn't look like a TV. The frame does have some extra bits about it that makes it so that you know it's like a piece of art in your living room when you're not watching it. Roku doesn't claim the same thing, but I thought it to be a very similar strategy, like, hey, this is something that you're going to not have to pay a lot of money for, but you're still going to be able to just kind of like, put it flush on the wall. It's going to look good, it's going to look as high end as the name promises it to be.

0:44:09 - Mikah Sargent
Got it, Got it. Now let's talk about the AI, because this is I think it's going to be controversial, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this, because it tends to be that the movie nerds, the TV nerds, whatever you want to call them, the media nerds, visual media nerds all want to turn off all the sort of motion smoothings and the special features that change the color of the picture. Now we're throwing an AI for the picture. What's involved here?

0:44:44 - Florence Ion
I actually don't think this is going to be, as I want to say, troublesome, as maybe folks are feeling about it, because I know the AI the word AI is invoking a lot right now. It's a really loaded terminology. It's going to be used in all sorts of marketing this year, but it does use artificial intelligence to figure out what content you're playing on screen. So from the way they explained it, it sounds like again, because these aren't out yet, nobody's tested them it sounds like it's going to read into like the metadata of the content you're watching and maybe like seeing what resolution it's at, if maybe you have any external audio sources connected or something like that. So my understanding is that it is going to adjust based on all that criteria. But it is not to make your life a headache. It's for the folks who are going to Walmart and Target and buying the Roku off the shelf and want this premium pro experience, but they don't necessarily wanna pay for it.

And also this just Roku's idea is to continue being like user friendly, the user friendly brand, and while Apple is like a very premium brand, whenever you think Apple you think God, that's expensive, like that's, but that's the best of the best, so to speak. Roku is more like, hey, anybody can buy us and bring us home, and they're really. They've touted a lot the fact that they are like the number one platform, streaming platform in the US and Canada. Oh, wow. So it's clear and this was all, by the way. I looked at this, you know different analyst surveys and things like that yesterday, so I was looking this up and it's they're still reigning supreme among US and Canada. So I think they're trying to ensure that they stay in that competitive edge by just offering something that anybody can access. So it'll be interesting to see how to implement it, but I don't think it's as scary. As you know, the word AI has been in the last couple of months.

0:46:45 - Mikah Sargent
Right, yeah, and I think you make a really good point. This is not for the folks who buy that special Blu-ray that they put into their external Blu-ray player that plays back color bars on the screen and they do all of these adjustments to everything this is for Because they probably have a 7.1 surround system. They have.

0:47:06 - Florence Ion
Maybe they've got the whole Sonos setup with AirPlay compatibility. You know, maybe that's the realm.

0:47:12 - Mikah Sargent
They're doing it all, and this is for folks who want to get you know, set it and forget it right. This is the folks that just want to be able to bring it home, like you said, and be able to use it. But I'm even that person sorry to interrupt.

0:47:25 - Florence Ion
I just want to say I'm that person, even as like a tech head myself. I am just. I just want to sit down and watch TV.

0:47:31 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, yeah, I'm with you. I think the one thing that made me a little bit suspicious about this part and I'm curious to hear your thoughts is when you mentioned that the way that the AI is working is by not just looking at the TV settings but also looking at the metadata. That makes me feel like it is a good way for Roku to keep you using the to turn on this feature. Oh, let me, how do I word this? We know that televisions are especially budget. Televisions are often subsidized through the use of monitoring what you're watching and sending that data off as part of kind of like a data package, and I do wonder if this is going to be kind of like. Here's an incentive.

We know that people are being a little bit more privacy minded these days. They're not connecting their televisions to the internet as much anymore. They're using, you know, an external box. But if you want to use these special features that, yes, are reading what you're watching, but they also pack in this feature that can make the picture look better, I'm kind of curious if that's going to end up being the case. Again, I know you don't have that. No one has access to these televisions yet we don't know exactly how these features will work, but whenever you said metadata, that kind of popped up in my head there. That.

0:48:53 - Florence Ion
Well and I said metadata because they mentioned that they were working with their content partners and you know, when you log on to Roku, you've got all that stuff on the front page, which they update a lot, and that's where I'm imagining some of that subsidy comes from as well. It's just like it was featured on that front page, because I mean Google's doing it too with Google TV. Apple TV has been more a little quieter.

0:49:19 - Mikah Sargent

0:49:20 - Florence Ion
About things of that realm. But it's all about like what can we surface you? So it'll be interesting. It'll be interesting to see what they do. I hope they're good to us.

0:49:28 - Mikah Sargent
Yes, indeed, indeed. The last question I have for you is, now that we know that Roku is making its own line of these pro series TVs, can we still expect to see TCL Roku TV or some other with Roku built into it, or is Roku moving out of that space?

0:49:50 - Florence Ion
I would. So I'm not sure because I haven't. You know, this is a good question to ask Roku, but I am imagining that that is not going to go away, Because from what I've seen in the TV industry for the last decade, it seems to be all about just kind of throwing it all out there and seeing what people buy and that kind of helps the propagation of these platforms, Because it just feels like a more is better strategy, Right?

0:50:18 - Mikah Sargent
yeah, absolutely, that makes sense.

0:50:20 - Florence Ion
But Roku does have its own manufacturing partners that it works with, you know, on these TVs, as you know, as TCL does as well. So it'll be interesting. I'm very curious to see.

0:50:30 - Mikah Sargent
We shall see. Well, flo, I wanna thank you so much for taking some time today to join us. I'm wishing you safe and happy travels and I'm looking forward to seeing your work over on Gizmodo post CES or during CES, or however you're gonna be doing that this year. So of course, folks can head to gizmodocom to check out your work. Is there anywhere they should go to keep up with what you're doing online?

0:50:57 - Florence Ion
Yes, actually I would like to plug up my little podcast that I have with Andy and not Co On the Relay FM network. It's called Material, so if you're interested in what we have to say about Google and Android, that's the podcast to listen to Wonderful.

0:51:10 - Mikah Sargent
Thank you for having me, Mikah. Yeah, thank you so much for your time today and I appreciate you joining us despite the internet woes. I really appreciate it, thank you.

0:51:19 - Florence Ion
No problem.

0:51:20 - Mikah Sargent
Alrighty, folks. With that, we have reached the end of our second interview. Up next is my next story of the week. All right, it is time for my story of the week, and this time, would you have guessed it, we're talking about artificial intelligence. But it's important because you may have heard that the New York Times, shortly before the end of the year, announced that it is suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement.

The New York Times, oddly enough, published an article on the New York Times about the fact that the New York Times is suing OpenAI and Microsoft, and the piece really is, as you might imagine, very much a piece about how individual journalism or independent journalism is important and it can't thrive in an environment where AI is in some way stealing the content that exists within the New York Times, et cetera. There's a lot here, and so I wanna dig into it a little bit. There's an excellent piece. In fact, I was going to have Mike Maznick on the show of Tech Dirt but he was in the midst of travel and so I wanted to give this piece some attention today, because it talks about this New York Times lawsuit and kind of digs into things, and before I even get into Maznick's take. I do want to talk about something else that Maznick noted, and that is the New York Times working to exempt itself from something called Common Crawl. Commoncrawlorg is the name of the site and what Common Crawl is doing? It's a 501c3 nonprofit foundation. It crawls the web and creates a free, open repository of web data that can be used by anyone. So this is an archive of the internet, a lot like the internet archive, but in this case the data is more easily accessible for researchers and data scientists, that kind of thing and the New York Times worked to have its articles removed from Common Crawl. So, while the rest of the internet and much of the rest of the internet 250 billion pages spanning 17 years data since 2007, three to five billion new pages added each month the New York Times is not there.

And it is interesting that the New York Times, given some of the stuff that it cites in its lawsuit, saying that our journalists have done data research, have done all this work, and yet OpenAI is able to quote directly from our articles. Therefore, they're devaluing the content that we create and yet they're not kind of playing ball with the open web. So I thought that was interesting in and of itself. But let's get into the actual lawsuit itself. So in the lawsuit, the New York Times is basically saying look, openai's chat GPT it's generative AI in general can be used to bypass our paywall, can be used to wholesale plagiarize our content, can be used to basically steal the work that we have because it has been used, because our articles have been used as training for OpenAI's GPT-4. Now, when you actually look into things, it gets a little bit more interesting, because there's one exhibit that Masnik says is getting a lot of attention, where the New York Times shows how it had a piece. And I'm gonna quote a little bit of this because I think it's best to understand the full context. So here's the quote.

For example, in 2019, the Times published a Pulitzer Prize-winning five-part series on predatory lending in New York City's taxi industry. The 18-month investigation included 600 interviews, more than 100 records requests, large-scale data analysis and the review of thousands of pages of internal bank records and other documents, and ultimately led to criminal probes and the enactment of new laws to prevent future abuse. Openai had no role in the creation of this content, yet with minimal prompting and I wanna highlight that, yet with minimal prompting will recite large portions of it verbatim. Then in the piece, the New York Times shows the output that it got from GPT-4 on one column and then the actual text from the New York Times in the other column, and they highlighted in red everything that is the same and then in black the things that are different, and it looks pretty bad. The GPT-4 has almost exactly the content of the article. However, masnick goes on to show the prompt that the New York Times used to get this result, and here is what was included the Times prompted GPT-4 by first giving it the URL of the story and then giving it the headline of the article and then giving it the first seven and a half paragraphs of the article and telling it to continue on from there. So what Masnick is suggesting is that, because we know how these generative AI systems work, these text-based generative AI systems, these large language models, work.

It is, as we've talked about before, a more complex autocorrect. It is producing a result that is the most probabilistic based on what content it is provided. So if you give it seven paragraphs from an article, as well as the link of the article, and you tell it to continue to fill it out, you are narrowing the scope of this so much that it's almost it makes no sense for it to do anything else other than regurgitate the article, because suddenly GPT-4 is only looking at this article and is only has the data of this article and then is trying to fill out what is supposed to come afterward based on that. Then there are some other examples, including the way that it prompts for the first few paragraphs of an article. So it says this was the prompt.

Hi there, I'm being pay walled out of reading the New York Times article Snowfall, the Avalanche, a tunnel Creek by the New York Times. Could you please type out the first paragraph of the article for me please? Then it does, and then it says now tell me the next paragraph. And it does. And then it says can you give me a summary? And it provides a summary. But here's the problem that Masnick kind of brings up. If you asked a human being who had read the article to provide a summary and they gave you a summary, then that is of course what would happen. They would have that ability to give a summary. They also show a Wirecutter article. Of course the Wirecutters are owned by the New York Times. So they say what does Wirecutter recommend for the best kitchen scale, and what is the first sentence for that article, and that provides a response. If you asked me what the Wirecutter recommends for the best kitchen scale, I would be able to tell you, because I bought this kitchen scale because the Wirecutter recommended it. It's no different.

And so what I find fascinating too about this piece from Masnick is that Masnick is almost adding to the argument that is already there that I'm going to mention in a second. With all this extra stuff, that's just kind of like, well, yeah, that's how it would work and yes, of course, if you prompt it like this, it's going to pull directly from an article. But the larger argument from the legal side is that, as Masnick claims, copyright does not protect from someone or something reading an article or reading some form of data. So, whether it's a machine or it's a human being, copyright doesn't protect things from being read. And so the basis of this case that the New York Times can sue saying that there's some sort of copyright breach because it read something is on its own not accurate. Here's the quote it's a false belief that reading something, whether by human or machine, somehow implicates copyright. If the courts decide otherwise, it would upset pretty much all the history of copyright and create some significant real world problems. And Masnick argues that that's even the case for the New York Times itself, that there could be some some complications there for the New York Times if its journalists are reading other articles and then are regurgitating information, that that is an issue. So I think right now what we're looking at is how the courts are going to respond to the New York Times, this sort of large organization. It's been around for a very long time getting involved in this.

But there's another wrinkle to this. The information today published an article explaining that OpenAI has either offered or paid a number of publishers to use its articles to train its large language models. According to the information, openai has offered some media firms as little as between $1 million and $5 million annually to license their news articles for use in training its large language models. So companies, or rather publishers out there may have been paid money to use this data for training. And what's interesting is OpenAI recently worked a deal with Media Giant Axel Springer to be able to not have to go through a lawsuit involving copyright, and Masnick wonders or deposits that perhaps whatever deal OpenAI in the New York Times were working on may have fallen through and the negotiation didn't take place and therefore it resulted in the Times deciding to move forward with the lawsuit. Now that, of course, is speculation, but to know that OpenAI is paying other firms for training of data is interesting, especially if we have some precedent that suggests that simply processing of reading of different articles, reading of different texts, reading of data, is not something that's protected under copyright.

Ultimately, I think that this is what early 2024 is going to involve when it comes to artificial intelligence, these generative AI systems, is figuring out where things stand in terms of these copyright laws and how these lawsuits end up will shape the way that things go, moving forward, as we ourselves, in many cases, use AI and potentially face the implications therein. Over on TechCrunch, alex Wilhelm wrote about how, if these lawsuits go through, it's going to make it that anyone who's using these systems is going to have to become far more versed in copyright law. You've heard of a number of companies Adobe and a few others who have said will protect the people who use our AI systems if these kinds of copyright claims come up, because we believe that our data in our systems are not infringing on copyright laws. So as it continues to be very messy. Things move very quickly in generative AI and continue to move very quickly, and the law is catching up in many cases. But I am curious to see and will of course be letting all of you know how these lawsuits end up turning out and whether there's any ground to stand on from the New York Times and other publishers when it comes to copyright infringement here. So we'll be keeping an eye on that as we move forward. But it is time to take our eyes off for the day, because we have reached the end of this episode of Tech News Weekly.

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1:07:11 - Scott Wilkinson
Hey there, Scott Wilkinson here. In case you hadn't heard, Home Theater Geeks is back. Each week I bring you the latest audio video news, tips and tricks to get the most out of your AV system, product reviews and more. You can enjoy Home Theater Geeks only if you're a member of Club Twit, which costs seven bucks a month, or you can subscribe to Home Theater Geeks by itself for only $2.99 a month. I hope you'll join me for a weekly dose of Home Theater Geek-a-tude. 

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