Friday Five: Waze asks users to help track fuel stocks

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Waze asks users to help track fuel stocks

Traffic app Waze is asking users to tell it which petrol stations have fuel available, amid the UK’s shortage of petrol at the pump. Users of the app are receiving push notifications asking them to “help your community stay informed”. This data is then plugged into the app’s live map for others to see which stations are open.

Waze said the feature to show fuel stocks was not new but the company “has made the decision to push ‘notify users’ to encourage its use”. However, similar measures, such as Facebook groups alerting members to when a tanker has arrived at a filling station, have been criticised as fuelling panic buying and adding to the problem.

2. Researchers find Apple Pay contactless hack

Large unauthorised contactless payments can be made on locked iPhones by exploiting how an Apple Pay feature designed to help commuters pay quickly at ticket barriers works with Visa. In a video, researchers demonstrated making a contactless Visa payment of £1,000 from a locked iPhone.

The problem applies to Visa cards set up in ‘Express Transit’ mode in an iPhone’s wallet, a feature that enables contactless payments without unlocking the phone. Apple said the matter was “a concern with a Visa system. For their part, Visa said payments were secure and attacks of this type were impractical outside of a lab.

3. Russia could ban YouTube after Covid row

YouTube could face restrictions in Russia after it deleted two German-language channels operated by Russian state-controlled RT (Russia Today). YouTube said it deleted the channels on Tuesday after they breached its policy on Covid-19 misinformation, which does not allow content that contradicts local health authorities.

Russia’s foreign ministry responded by accusing the Google-owned company of taking part in an “information war” against Russia and threatened “retaliatory measures” against the company and German media outlets. The German government said it had “taken note” of YouTube’s decision but denied any role.

4. Facebook’s $50m fund to build the metaverse

Facebook has announced a $50 million fund that it says will help it develop the metaverse more responsibly. It’s officially called the XR Programs and Research Fund, and the company says it’ll be invested into “programs and external research” about the “next computing platform” over the course of two years.

So what exactly is the metaverse? Facebook defines it as “virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people” that you’re not physically with, spread out over products and services. The fund’s goal is to make sure it builds the metaverse with an eye on compatibility, inclusivity, privacy, safety and economic opportunity.

5. Google using AI for two-hour rain forecasts

Weather forecasts are notoriously bad at predicting impending rain, as anyone who’s been caught out without a brolly knows. But scientists at Google DeepMind have developed an AI-based forecasting system they claim can more accurately predict the chances of rain within the next two hours than existing systems.

Today’s weather forecasting models are good at predicting from six hours onwards, but have a blind spot for the 0–2 hour range; DeepMind is using “precipitation nowcasting” to fill this blind spot. It is using machine learning to predict rainfall based on the past 20 minutes of high-resolution radar data. Coats on, people!

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