US may tie social media to visa applications

The Trump administration has said it wants to start collecting the social media history of nearly everyone seeking a visa to enter the US.

The proposal, which comes from the state department, would require most visa applicants to give details of their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

They would have to disclose all social media identities used in the past five years.

About 14.7 million people a year would be affected by the proposals.

The information would be used to identify and vet those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Applicants would also be asked for five years of their telephone numbers, email addresses and travel history. They would be required to say if they had ever been deported from a country, or if any relatives had been involved in terrorist activity.

The proposal would not affect citizens from countries which the US grants visa-free travel status – among them the UK, Canada, France and Germany. However, citizens from non-exempt countries like India, China and Mexico could be embroiled if they visit the US for work or a holiday.

What’s the current stance on requesting social media?

Under rules brought in last May, officials were told to seek people’s social media handles only if they felt “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”, a state department official said at the time.

The tougher proposal comes after President Trump promised to implement “extreme vetting” for foreigners entering the US, which he said was to combat terrorism.

Who decides if it happens?

The idea is subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget.

The public will have two months to comment on the proposal before it makes a decision.

How does this affect free speech?

Civil liberties groups have condemned the policy as an invasion of privacy that could damage free speech.

“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” said Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” she said.

The social media platforms covered in the proposal include US-based entities such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube. However, the New York Times reports that overseas platforms such as China’s Sina Weibo and Russia’s VK social network would also be included.

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Nvidia GTC 2018 Highlights: AI Trucks, Mega-Video Cards & Ray Tracing

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DisplayLink Reveals New Details About Wireless VR Solution

Last week at GDC, DisplayLink was demonstrating the capabilities of its wireless technology in the upcoming HTC Vive Wireless Adapter. We stopped by the booth and took a few pictures, but we weren’t able to secure a demo. The DisplayLink representative we spoke to didn’t have much to say about its technology that we didn’t already write about last year, and they didn’t have anything to say about HTC’s adapter that we didn’t already know.

It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t coordinate a meeting with Andy Davis, DisplayLink’s Marketing Director, as he evidently had a lot more to say. In an interview with Tested.com’s Norman Chan, Davis revealed several details about the wireless system that we didn’t know about, including details about a new Intel-developed antenna system.

HTC’s Vive Wireless Adapter uses a combination of DisplayLink’s wireless video technology and Intel’s WiGig technology. That part isn’t news–we’ve known since Computex last year that these three companies are working together to create a wireless solution. However, they haven’t spoken much about the finer details of the system.

DisplayLink’s wireless XR platform is a combination of hardware and software that enables latency-free transmission of VR data signals. The wireless system uses DisplayLink’s DL8020 chips, which are capable of driving resolutions up to 4K. Davis also said that the system currently operates at 90Hz, but there is “loads of space” for higher refresh rate displays in the future. The DL8020 chips can interface with DisplayPort and HDMI (HTC’s solution offers both to support the Vive and Vive Pro HMDs), so companies can adapt it for any HMD.

Davis also explained that the DisplayLink wireless system does not restrict any of the features or the Vive headset. TPCast already offers a wireless solution, but the current generation device doesn’t support the microphone. DisplayLink’s system handles everything from the video signal, the audio signal, the sensor tracking data, and the microphone. It even supports the chaperone camera. 

Intel’s WiGig technology handles the wireless data transmission via a 60GHz direct line-of-sight signal. WiGig technology isn’t new, but Intel repurposed the technology for VR, which required redesigning the hardware. Davis explained that Intel created a new antenna system for wireless VR that enables an unobstructed line of sight to the head-mounted wireless VR adapter. The new WiGig antenna features 2m tether cable, which enables you to install it high on your wall or a stand.

WiGig technology offers high-bandwidth data transmission, but it isn’t designed to communicate with rapidly moving objects. Stationary devices can communicate over WiGig with predictable, steady bandwidth levels, but moving devices suffer from fluctuating signal strength. Davis described WiGig as being like a laser pointer that you can point directly, whereas he said WiFi is more like a torch that offers wide, imprecise coverage.

DisplayLink uses software codec to overcome the fluctuating bandwidth problem. Davis said that DisplayLink’s compression algorithm could dynamically adjust and compress the video signal in real-time to keep the signal within the bandwidth constraints at any given moment. The software accounts for color space, moving and stationary features, and image quality levels and pushes out the highest quality signal that it can. “The goal is to make it invisible to the user,” Davis told Chan.

A Closer Look At The Adapter

We didn’t get a chance to try the Vive wireless adapter at GDC, but we did get a closer look at the hardware, which shed some light on some of its features.

The unit attaches to the top Velcro strap of the Vive or Vive Pro HMD and features two antennas that stick on either side. The ends of the antennas feature Vive logos that illuminate when the device is powered up.

We don’t know if the cables are included, but the headset we looked at featured a short data cable that tethers the receiver to the HMD. The Vive Pro has a proprietary data cable, which leads us to believe the short cable would come with the wireless adapter.

The adapter includes HDMI and DisplayPort interfaces so that you can plug either headset into the unit. With both connections present, it wouldn’t be difficult for HTC to add support for future HMDs either.

The receiver also features a USB 3.0 port, which is used to power the device. It’s not present in our pictures, but the USB cord attaches to a battery pack, which you can strap to your belt or put in your pocket while playing.

We’re still not sure when HTC plans to release the Vive Wireless Adapter, but we expect to learn more about it in the coming months. HTC said the device would be available this summer. We’re eager to get our hands on one to run it through its paces. Though, we’re not so eager to find out the price. With HTC’s recent track record of setting high prices for VR hardware, we don’t expect the wireless system to carry a bargain price tag.

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Apple’s Computers Now Officially Support External GPUs

Apple announced support for Thunderbolt 3-based external GPUs with macOS High Sierra 10.13.4. Only select GPUs, external GPU docks, and Apple computers are supported, however, and the feature still won’t work on Windows Boot Camp.

On the computer side, 2016-and-later MacBook Pro laptops, 2017-and-later iMac desktops, and the iMac Pro are supported. On the GPU side, Apply only recommends that certain AMD Polaris and Vega graphics cards be used. Apple also notes that if you’re using a MacBook, the external GPU dock you use needs to be capable of supplying enough charging power to the laptop.

Of the gaming-focused Thunderbolt GPU docks, only the PowerColor Devil Box and Sapphire GearBox are officially recommended by Apple. The former has been tested by Apple to work with recommended GPUs up to the Vega 56, while the latter should only be used with the recommended Polaris cards. With a 500W PSU, the Devil Box is one of the most capable external GPU docks, but there’s a bunch of lower-powered units that should work fine for Polaris cards.

Performance and utilization information for external GPUs can be viewed in the macOS Activity Monitor. The full list of Apple-approved GPUs and Thunderbolt GPU docks is copied below.

For AMD Radeon RX 570, RX 580, and Radeon Pro WX 7100 graphics cards:

  • OWC Mercury Helios FX

PowerColor Devil Box

  • Sapphire GearBox

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350W

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W

For AMD Radeon RX Vega 56:

  • OWC Mercury Helios FX

  • PowerColor Devil Box

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W

For AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega Frontier Edition Air, Radeon Pro WX 9100:

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W

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U.S. Visitors, Immigrants Could Be Required To Reveal Social Media Identities

The federal government issued a proposal that would allow it to collect all social media identities from immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants. The proposal is now open to public comments for the next 60 days and will require approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Social Media Vetting

The U.S. government’s justification for this new proposal is that it wants to do more “vetting” of visa applicants before they are allowed in the country. The Department of Homeland Security admitted in 2015 that it was using social media to vet U.S. visitors, but that there were legal limits in its social media investigations.

In 2016, the federal government proposed for the first time to add a line to forms that need to be filled out by all visitors to the U.S. that would ask them to “voluntarily” reveal their social media identities. However, this proposal never had the feeling of being too optional for visitors. If the border agents feel that you’re purposely trying to hide some information, then they may deny you entry.

In 2017, the federal government came with an even more extreme proposal, that would require visitors to reveal their social media passwords to border agents. Refusing to do so would potentially result in an entry rejection by the border agents.

New Social Media Proposal

The government seems to have given up on that password sharing idea for now, but its new proposal would still require new visitors to the U.S. and immigrant visa applicants to reveal all of their social media identities used in the past five years. If it goes into effect, the proposal will affect over 14 million people annually.

The government estimates that it will get 14 million social media identity responses per year, and that it would take border agents 21 million hours annually to analyze all of them, with an average of 90 minutes per requested social media identity.

Public Comments Open For 60 Days

The government published this new proposal in the Federal Register today, which means the public now has 60 days to comment on this issue. The government is asking for comments for the following reasons:

  • Evaluate whether the proposed information collection is necessary for the proper functions of the Department.
  • Evaluate the accuracy of our estimate of the time and cost burden for this proposed collection, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used.
  • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected.
  • Minimize the reporting burden on those who are to respond, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

To comment, you can go to Regulations.gov and search for the document by using “Docket Number: DOS-2018-0002” in the search bar. You’ll then see a Comment now button. Click the button and complete your submission.


After the 60 day public comment period expires, the OMB will need to either approve or reject this proposal.

Civil Rights Groups Condemn The Proposal

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) EFF and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have argued before against this type of policy. The EFF said last fall about a similar proposal that:

These proposals threaten the digital privacy and freedom of expression of innocent foreign travelers, and the many U.S. citizens who communicate with them. Moreover, the government has not shown that such information collection will be effective at combating terrorism.

The ACLU also noted the following in response to a similar proposal from the federal government, from last year:

Indeed, even providing information about the existence of one’s social media accounts can eviscerate the right to speak anonymously online and may chill people from creating accounts using pseudonyms, which is a common tactic used by victims of domestic violence or whistleblowers who fear retaliation.

Given what’s been happening with Facebook over the past two weeks, if this proposal passes it could become yet another reason for people to start quitting social media altogether. It’s not just Facebook, advertisers, and companies working for political campaigns that want all of your social media information.

Governments seem to have become increasingly interested in all the information you store on social media accounts, too. This means that social media accounts have become more than just harmless fun with friends on the internet. They’ve essentially become detailed dossiers we’ve been building on ourselves for more than a decade, and now they’re ripe for the picking by interested government agencies.

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Thermaltake Announces Pure Plus 12 Digital RGB Fans For Radiators

Thermaltake launched a new RGB fan to add to its recently upgraded RGB Plus lighting ecosystem. The Pure Plus 12 is a 120mm fan that uses a nine-blade fan rotor and a hydraulic bearing. Thermaltake calls the Pure Plus a radiator fan, but the maximum static pressure of 1.59mm-H20 isn’t particularly high. As a PWM fan, the Pure Plus has an RPM range from 500 to 1,500.

Beyond its performance, which doesn’t seem to have any particularly standout aspects, the Pure Plus lighting control is based on the aforementioned RGB Plus system. This is Thermaltake’s proprietary digital RGB lighting system. If you want a brief explanation of this newer form of RGB lighting, check out this article. Basically, it allows each LED in the Pure Plus to be programmed individually through Thermaltakes software. All Thermaltake RGB Plus-enabled devices connect to an RGB Plus controller, which is supplied, via USB. The controllers, in turn, connect to your motherboard via USB.

The Thermaltake Pure Plus 12 comes in packs of three. Pricing and availability of the fans wasn’t announced.

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Macs finally support external graphics cards with macOS High Sierra 10.13.4

External graphics card support, a feature promised by Apple since the launch of macOS High Sierra back in September 2017, has finally arrived via version update 10.13.4 that is available now.

Apple has detailed how the feature works through a support page on its website, noting that this function only works with Macs that support Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. So, that means MacBook Pro models released since 2016, iMac models since 2017 and the brand new iMac Pro.

Of course, you’ll also need this update installed, which is available through the Mac App Store.

Having an external graphics card, or eGPU, connected to your allows for far more functionality than just improved graphics brunt, however. Here are the highlights of what the feature allows for, straight from the horse’s mouth:

  • Accelerate applications that use Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL
  • Connect additional external monitors and displays
  • Use virtual reality headsets plugged into the eGPU
  • Charge your MacBook Pro while using the eGPU
  • Use an eGPU with your MacBook Pro while its built-in display is closed

While that’s more than perhaps many were expecting from this change, there is one glaring shortcoming of the feature.

Nvidia is a no-show

Sadly, the list of supported graphics cards is rather small, and even at that the list of graphics card enclosures that support each model is even smaller. Without getting buried in the minutiae, which you can find on Apple’s support page, here are the supported graphics cards:

  • AMD Radeon RX 570
  • AMD Radeon RX 580
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 64
  • AMD Vega Frontier Edition Air
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100

Notice something missing from this list? That’s right, Nvidia’s graphics cards are nowhere to be found. Apple makes no mention of neither Nvidia nor its products within this support page detailing eGPU support.

So, regardless of the wattage of your eGPU enclosure, we certainly wouldn’t recommend trying out Nvidia graphics cards with your Mac computer. (Also, don’t try using eGPUs while running Windows in Boot Camp – Apple notes that this is not supported.)

It’s unclear as to why Apple has omitted Nvidia support entirely from its eGPU feature, but considering that none of its iMac or MacBook Pro models offer the option, it makes a little more sense. This is a massive boon to users wanting to game and get creative on Mac, but here’s to hoping that the list of supported hardware is widened out in the future.

  • These are the best Macs we’ve tested this past year

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