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The Privacy Puzzle

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A team of Reed statistics students won first place in a prestigious national competition for an innovative algorithm that helps researchers glean information from datasets—without compromising individual privacy.

Zeki Kazan ’20, Kaiyan Shi ’20, and Simon Couch ’21 won the Undergraduate Statistics Research Project Competition for their project, “A Differentially Private Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test,” which outlines a new algorithm for hypothesis testing that upholds the privacy of the underlying data. In fact, their technique is twice as powerful as the standard private method, meaning that it requires less than half as much data to achieve the same statistical power.

Simon was actually sitting in a statistics class with Prof. Kelly McConville when he heard the news. “I was so surprised!” he told us. “I felt so much excitement and pride and thankfulness to have this opportunity.”

The project was advised by Prof. Adam Groce, Prof. Anna Ritz, and Prof. Andrew Bray, who says he was not surprised at all. “The productivity of this group was incredible,” he says. “I knew the quality of their work would be immediately apparent to the judges. This is an original solution to a real scientific problem.”

Simply put, the problem is that big databases hold immense promise for answering scientific questions, but many organizations won’t allow researchers access to them because of the risk of an inadvertent breach of privacy—even when obvious markers like name and address have been stripped away. In 2014, for example, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission released a giant database of taxi rides in response to a freedom-of-information request. The commission attempted to anonymize the data, but enterprising journalists were able to piece together various clues to identify rides taken by celebrities.

To understand the Reed project, you need to know that statisticians often compare two sets of data using a tool known as a hypothesis test. Each hypothesis test requires a certain amount of data before it can detect a relationship between the two sets—the less data it needs, the more statistical power it has.

Now to go deeper.

There are many different types of hypothesis tests. The Reed team focused on the Wilcoxon Signed-Rank Test, which is commonly used when there is paired-sample data—where there is a natural association between the two sets (e.g. a patient’s blood pressure before and after watching a horror movie). It compares the sets in an attempt to determine whether there is a statistically significant relationship.

The team reworked the Wilcoxon test to ensure privacy, and employed an innovative technique to reduce the amount of data it required. With these two seemingly simple tweaks, the enhanced algorithm turned out to be much more powerful, yielding significant real-world implications. When tested, their model had a statistical power that was much closer to public-setting tests: achieving the same statistical power with only 40% of the data required by the earlier private-setting model. Because of this increased efficiency, the Reed algorithm can be used on smaller datasets, whereas previous models required enormous quantities of data.

Source: https://www.reed.edu/reed-magazine/articles/2019/statistics-usproc-win.html

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Tesla slices prices on Models S and X as its stock plunges

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Tesla has sliced the price of its two most expensive models after several Wall Street analysts questioned the demand for its cars. The company on Monday cut $3,000 from the price of the Model S sedan and $2,000 from the Model X SUV.

The Model S now starts at $71,250 while the X starts at $71,950. The prices don’t include federal and state tax credits for electric-vehicle purchases.

Tesla wouldn’t say if slowing sales influenced its decision, but it said it periodically adjusts prices and available options, according to the Associated Press. Tesla said the decreases offset price increases from a month ago when it offered longer battery range and added a new drive system and suspension.

The moves come as Tesla’s stock is under pressure, at times dropping below $200 per share this week. Several analysts have questioned whether the company can sell enough cars to cover its expenses without dipping into its shrinking cash reserves.

Shares traded Tuesday afternoon at $205.62, up slightly from Monday’s closing price. They are down more than 38 percent so far this year, cutting the company’s market value more than $20 billion to $36.5 billion. On Monday the shares hit their lowest point since late 2016.

Tesla said in a statement that the reductions are about 2% to 3% on the prices of the S and X. The company last week raised the price of its top-selling Model 3 by $400, pushing the base price to $35,400. “By any reasonable standard, these small changes are not newsworthy,” the company said in a statement.

Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote on Monday that he was concerned about Tesla’s growth prospects and the demand for the Model 3 during the coming quarters. He called Tesla a “code red” situation. “We have continued concerns around Tesla’s ability to balance this ‘perfect storm’ of softer demand and profitability concerns, which will weigh on shares until Musk & Co. prove otherwise in terms of delivering solid results over the coming quarters,” Ives wrote, referring to CEO Elon Musk.

After two profitable quarters, Tesla said last month it lost $702 million in the first quarter of 2019, one of its worst performances in two years. Sales tumbled 31% in the period. Musk predicted another loss in the second quarter but said Tesla would be profitable again by the third quarter.

The carmaker recently closed a $2.7 billion funding round, giving it enough cash to survive another 10 months, Reuters reported. Musk now is on a cost-cutting mission, with plans to review “literally every payment that leaves our bank account,” according to Reuters.

In January, the automaker cut its prices by $2,000 per vehicle, acknowledging that the pending expiration of a $7,500 federal tax credit for its electric cars will hurt sales. The credit is gradually being phased out for Tesla by the end of the year.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tesla-stock-price-drop-brings-price-cuts-on-models-s-and-x/

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Genesis Essentia Concept Planned for Production as an EV, Possibly Powered by Hydrogen

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The Genesis Essentia concept is still under development for possible series production, Genesis CEO Manfred Fitzgerald told Car and Driver in a recent interview. “There are so many beautiful concept cars that have a very short life span; they are shown and then never seen again. We are trying not to follow that road,” Fitzgerald said, adding: “We are still working on it, and it is still alive. It shall be an electric vehicle.”

Fitzgerald also said that it would not necessarily be a battery-electric vehicle but that it could also be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. “The Essentia can have different means of electrification, and that is something that we are currently debating,” he explained.

Fitzgerald is a fan of hydrogen-powered cars: “I believe the battery-electric vehicle is just a transitional technology. I see a lot of potential in telling the hydrogen story in the right way, and as soon as people really see it they will recognize the upsides and all the benefits,” he said, adding that hydrogen cars could “kill a lot of pain points of what they are associating right now with electrification.”

Yet there is a strong hint that the Essentia could actually be a battery-powered car: Hyundai recently invested $90 million in the Croatian carmaker Rimac, which specializes in battery-electric supercars. The Genesis Essentia could be one of the projects Hyundai is planning to assign to Rimac, although a Genesis spokesperson called our question about it “pure speculation at this point.”

The Genesis Essentia was launched at the 2018 New York auto show and dominated automotive coverage of the show. The New York launch was followed by appearances at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on Lake Como and at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California.

Source: https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a27506234/genesis-essentia-concept-hydrogen-ev-future/

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Apple Accidentally Reveals Radical New iPhone Upgrade

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Unimpressed by Apple’s upcoming iPhone 11 and iPhone XR2? New information directly from Apple itself has teased a red-hot new iPhone upgrade that’s worth waiting for.

Picked up by the ever-alert Patently Apple, Apple has quietly filed a patent which reveals its ambitious plans to bring Touch ID back to iPhones. And it works in a way, unlike anything iPhone owners have experienced before.

Taking inspiration from rivals, Apple has detailed how it will build Touch ID into the display of new iPhones by installing an array of pinhole cameras under the screen. Unlike rivals, however, Apple’s patent shows a touch area which fills the screen allowing users to place a finger anywhere to unlock their device. This is a major breakthrough given the unintuitive nature of textureless in-display readers compared to their physical predecessors.

In addition to this, the tech is clearly taking shape since Apple has included photographs of a working prototype. The furthest step yet for technology the company is clearly accelerating, with no less than four in-display Touch ID patent filings since December (1,2,3,4). Including how user fingerprints will not only be mapped, but 3D modelled.

And even Face ID’s biggest fans should be excited. Firstly, the all-new Touch ID is not designed to replace Face ID but to augment it, giving users both an alternative unlock option as well as military grade security by combining both in hypersensitive situations. Yes, payments would be one example, but Apple is thinking bigger already having filed plans for iPhones to replace your passport and that’s where dual biometrics are crucial.

Excited? You should be. No, Apple’s ugly 2019 iPhones won’t get this but we are seeing more and more reasons why you should skip them anyway. Instead, the big 2020 redesign looks more likely. After all, Apple appears very keen for us to know about it.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2019/05/16/apple-new-iphone-touch-id-upgrade-iphone-xs-max-xr-iphone-11-xr2/#103d72d63636

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