If the Denman glacier in East Antarctica keeps thawing, scientists warn it could raise sea levels almost five feet. The New York MTA’s new tap-to-pay fare system may be putting rider privacy at risk. Smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home could be listening in on your confidential meetings as you work from home.
Sea levels could rise five feet.
The Denman glacier in East Antarctica has retreated almost three miles in the last 22 years, and researchers warn that if it fully thaws, sea levels could rise almost five feet.
Between 1979 and 2017, the glacier experienced a cumulative mass loss of 268 billion tons of ice, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters. Denman, which is around 10 miles wide, has been melting about 10 feet per year, which is above average compared to other East Antarctic ice shelves.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are concerned that the shape of the ground surface beneath the ice sheet could make it more susceptible to climate-driven collapse. Denman glacier rests on top of a chasm more than two miles deep, the deepest land-based canyon on Earth. Scientists believe unusually warm ocean water—at least a few degrees above freezing—is likely seeping beneath the ice shelf and helping to melt the glacier from the bottom up.
“Because of the shape of the ground beneath Denman’s western side, there is potential for rapid and irreversible retreat, and that means substantial increases in global sea levels in the future,” said the study’s lead author, Virginia Brancato, a postdoctoral fellow with NASA JPL.
Ride at your own risk.
The MTA’s new tap-to-pay fare system, OMNY (One Metro New York), is meant to make paying for transit faster and easier—but it may also be putting rider privacy at risk.
The plan is for OMNY validators (introduced in 2019) to be in every subway station and bus in NYC by the end of this year, with expansion to the Metro North and Long Island Rail Road commuter lines in early 2021. The new system, which is replacing MetroCard, makes it easier for riders to pay fares across different modes of transit by directly linking a credit or debit card to an OMNY account. Riders need only tap their contactless credit/debit cards or smart devices against a reader, and the MTA authenticates the form of payment and automatically deducts the cost of a ride. MTA said riders who prefer to pay cash will still be able to do so.
However, the new system comes with a downside: OMNY collects a significant amount of information from users, including smartphone device identifiers and location, which, coupled with payment and transportation data, could be used to map out rider movements.
There is also concern that cellphone location data, which is often used by law enforcement to identify and find persons of interest, could be used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to track down undocumented immigrants.
Do you know who’s listening?
A warning to anyone working from home: Turn off your smart speakers before you make a business call.
Smart home devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home not only listen to us when we don’t want them too, but employees of those companies may also be listening to our conversations for the sake of “improving voice-recognition features.” This can be a huge problem for people whose jobs require them to handle confidential, personal information—for example, doctors discussing treatment plans with their patients or lawyers speaking with their clients about an ongoing case.
Amazon and Google say their devices are designed to record and store audio only after they detect a word to wake them up, but such smart speakers are often triggered accidentally by conversations or even TV shows. In fact, research from Northeastern University and Imperial College London suggests that users can inadvertently activate their smart speakers between 1.5 and 19 times a day (cited by Gizmodo).
Video products like Ring, which is also owned by Amazon, and even baby monitors and closed-circuit TVs could also pose a risk.