Microsoft AI Engineer Says Company Thwarted Attempt To Expose DALL-E 3 Safety Problems

Todd Bishop reports via GeekWire: A Microsoft AI engineering leader says he discovered vulnerabilities in OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 image generator in early December allowing users to bypass safety guardrails to create violent and explicit images, and that the company impeded his previous attempt to bring public attention to the issue. The emergence of explicit deepfake images of Taylor Swift last week “is an example of the type of abuse I was concerned about and the reason why I urged OpenAI to remove DALL-E 3 from public use and reported my concerns to Microsoft,” writes Shane Jones, a Microsoft principal software engineering lead, in a letter Tuesday to Washington state’s attorney general and Congressional representatives.

404 Media reported last week that the fake explicit images of Swift originated in a “specific Telegram group dedicated to abusive images of women,” noting that at least one of the AI tools commonly used by the group is Microsoft Designer, which is based in part on technology from OpenAI’s DALL-E 3. “The vulnerabilities in DALL-E 3, and products like Microsoft Designer that use DALL-E 3, makes it easier for people to abuse AI in generating harmful images,” Jones writes in the letter to U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Rep. Adam Smith, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, which was obtained by GeekWire. He adds, “Microsoft was aware of these vulnerabilities and the potential for abuse.”

Jones writes that he discovered the vulnerability independently in early December. He reported the vulnerability to Microsoft, according to the letter, and was instructed to report the issue to OpenAI, the Redmond company’s close partner, whose technology powers products including Microsoft Designer. He writes that he did report it to OpenAI. “As I continued to research the risks associated with this specific vulnerability, I became aware of the capacity DALL-E 3 has to generate violent and disturbing harmful images,” he writes. “Based on my understanding of how the model was trained, and the security vulnerabilities I discovered, I reached the conclusion that DALL-E 3 posed a public safety risk and should be removed from public use until OpenAI could address the risks associated with this model.”

On Dec. 14, he writes, he posted publicly on LinkedIn urging OpenAI’s non-profit board to withdraw DALL-E 3 from the market. He informed his Microsoft leadership team of the post, according to the letter, and was quickly contacted by his manager, saying that Microsoft’s legal department was demanding that he delete the post immediately, and would follow up with an explanation or justification. He agreed to delete the post on that basis but never heard from Microsoft legal, he writes. “Over the following month, I repeatedly requested an explanation for why I was told to delete my letter,” he writes. “I also offered to share information that could assist with fixing the specific vulnerability I had discovered and provide ideas for making AI image generation technology safer. Microsoft’s legal department has still not responded or communicated directly with me.” “Artificial intelligence is advancing at an unprecedented pace. I understand it will take time for legislation to be enacted to ensure AI public safety,” he adds. “At the same time, we need to hold companies accountable for the safety of their products and their responsibility to disclose known risks to the public. Concerned employees, like myself, should not be intimidated into staying silent.” The full text of Jones’ letter can be read here (PDF).

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UK To Ban Disposable Vapes

In an announcement earlier today, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said single-use vapes will be banned in Britain, with certain flavors restricted and regulations put in place around their packaging and displays. The New York Times reports: Mr. Sunak said that the ban, which is part of legislation that still has to be approved by Parliament, was intended to halt “one of the most worrying trends at the moment,” before it becomes “endemic.” “The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable,” he said in a statement. Andrea Leadsom, Britain’s health minister, said the measures were intended to make sure that vapes were aimed at adults who were quitting smoking, rather than children.

“Nicotine is highly addictive — and so it is completely unacceptable that children are getting their hands on these products, many of which are undeniably designed to appeal to young people,” she said in a statement. […] While it is not illegal for people under 18 to smoke or vape in Britain, it is illegal for those products to be sold to them. By banning disposable vapes, and restricting the flavors and packaging of refillable vapes, the government hopes to make it far less likely that young people will experiment with e-cigarettes.

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After 32 Years, One of the Net’s Oldest Software Archives Is Shutting Down

Benj Edwards reports via Ars Technica: In a move that marks the end of an era, New Mexico State University (NMSU) recently announced the impending closure of its Hobbes OS/2 Archive on April 15, 2024. For over three decades, the archive has been a key resource for users of the IBM OS/2 operating system and its successors, which once competed fiercely with Microsoft Windows. In a statement made to The Register, a representative of NMSU wrote, “We have made the difficult decision to no longer host these files on Although I am unable to go into specifics, we had to evaluate our priorities and had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the service.”

Hobbes is hosted by the Department of Information & Communication Technologies at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. In the official announcement, the site reads, “After many years of service, will be decommissioned and will no longer be available. As of April 15th, 2024, this site will no longer exist.” The earliest record we’ve found of the Hobbes archive online is this 1992 Walnut Creek CD-ROM collection that gathered up the contents of the archive for offline distribution. At around 32 years old, minimum, that makes Hobbes one of the oldest software archives on the Internet, akin to the University of Michigan’s archives and ibiblio at UNC.

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NYC Wants To Create a First-of-Its Kind Department To Regulate App Based Delivery

With the increasing adoption of e-bikes and drones for efficient, eco-friendly delivery services, New York is proposing the Department of Sustainable Delivery to regulate these services, focusing on safety, data sharing, and operational permits to ease congested lanes. Fast Company reports: The first step of the new department will be a task force made up of tech, transportation, labor, and government representatives. There are currently some city regulations around delivery operations, but they’re fragmented; the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, for example, has addressed delivery worker rights (and recently announced a new minimum pay rate for app-based food delivery workers), while the Department of Transportation focuses on commercial delivery, and has taken steps to address delivery cargo bikes. “We don’t have a place where every company that wants to dispatch in volume and move freight [and goods] around in the city on a micro level comes through and has to show that they’re going to meet certain requirements,” [New York City Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi] says.

Managers of truck delivery fleets often track their driver’s performance and behavior with tools like GPS; through the new department, micromobility app companies may be required to share their GPS delivery data with the city. That data might reveal more about how long delivery riders are working, or how heavy cargo bikes’ loads are, which could lead to new regulations. Joshi also points to e-bike fires and rising e-bike rider deaths as red flags that signal the need for more oversight and legislation, which could prevent future tragedies. More information about where and when these deliveries are happening could also help the city adapt its infrastructure to this growing market. “As more and more of the city is feeling the effects of the commercialization of bike lanes, we certainly do have to rethink how wide our bike lanes are, what they are there to accommodate, does there need to be some separation between motorized and nonmotorized [bikes]?” Joshi says. “But these things need to be informed.” The city is already making some such updates. Last summer, it upgraded a stretch of 10th Avenue to include a 10-foot-wide bike lane, to better allow regular cyclists and delivery e-bikes to coexist

Tech advancements often move faster than the government, resulting in a game of legislative catch up for cities. Joshi says New York City is thinking about micromobility in this way because “we’ve seen this movie before,” referring to tech disruption, “and we’d like a different ending.” While Joshi knows that companies may bristle at the increased oversight, she says being proactive about these issues and taking steps to address them will likely help the firms and their public perception long-term. And not addressing micromobility challenges now could also impede larger climate progress. “If we are not able to show that we have a comprehensive framework, show that we’re able to manage what we have today and prepare for the unknown, we could have people, saying ‘it was better when [delivery] was in trucks,'” Joshi says, “and that would actually be probably the worst thing for the environment.”

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Halo’s Trailer for Season 2 Teases More Covenant

Halo — the TV series — launches its second season on February 8th. But today a trailer premiered during halftime of the pre-Super Bowl football playoff.

Gizmodo reports:
Even though the Covenant are the other side of Halo’s ongoing conflict, the first season of Paramount+’s TV series largely represented them through a human proxy named Makee. With the upcoming second season, the coalition of alien races is set to become a more prominent threat, and that means they’ll be getting more proper screentime.

IGN had written that Season 1 “isn’t a perfect adaptation of the games, but it ultimately succeeds in expanding the series’ mythology and taking a more character-driven approach to Master Chief’s adventures.” This week Paramount+ also released a 28-minute compilation of “Epic Battle Scenes from Season 1, a season which reportedly cost $200 million to film.
And now the entertainment site Collider reports on what comes next:

While on the set for Halo Season 2, Collider’s Steve Weintraub and some other reporters got the chance to sit down with stars Schreiber and Kate Kennedy to discuss how the show will further flesh out the Covenant in the upcoming episodes. Part of that involves expanding their arsenal with new vehicles like the corvette, a class of ships used in the Halo canon by the Covenant for reconnaissance, stealth, and much more. Kennedy placed it among her favorite Season 2 set designs, saying… “It’s huge, and what the set guys did for it, and the art department, is really, really impressive. They turned it around so quickly, and it’s, like, awe-inspiring, it’s huge.”

Aside from making the Covenant more formidable, Season 2 will also focus on making them more understandable. Part of that involves diving into the thought process of key players within the alien faction, including two that Schreiber could tease. “Yeah, we definitely go into the Covenant mind-state, mentality,” he said… In future seasons, Schreiber believes Halo will only continue to develop the Covenant, their motives, and the relationships and allegiances within the coalition as the story of intergalactic war unfolds.

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God Told Him to Launch a Crypto Venture, Said Pastor. Now He’s Accused of Pocketing $1.2M

In Denver, Colorado, a pastor had a message for his congregation, reports CNN.

“After months of prayers and cues from God, he was going to start selling cryptocurrency, he announced in a YouTube video last April.”

The Signature and Silvergate banks had collapsed weeks earlier, signaling the need to look into other investment options beyond financial institutions, he said. With divine wisdom, he said, he was “setting the rails for God’s wealth transfer.” Shortly afterward, Regalado and his wife, Kaitlyn Regalado, launched a cryptocurrency, INDXcoin, and began selling it to members of his Victorious Grace Church and other Christian communities in the Denver area. They sold it through the Kingdom Wealth Exchange, an online cryptocurrency marketplace he created, controlled and operated.

The Regalados raised more than $3.2 million from over 300 investors, Tung Chang, Securities Commissioner for Colorado, said in a civil complaint. The couple’s sales pitches were filled with “prayer and quotes from the Bible, encouraging investors to have faith that their investment … would lead to ‘abundance’ and ‘blessings,'” the complaint said. But Colorado state regulators say that INDXcoin was “essentially worthless.” Instead of helping investors acquire wealth, the Regalados used around $1.3 million of the investment funds to bankroll lavish expenditures, including a Range Rover, jewelry, cosmetic dentistry and extravagant vacations, the complaint said. The money also paid for renovations to the Regalados’ Denver home, the complaint said.

In a stunning video statement posted online on January 19 — several days after the civil charges were filed — Eli Regalado did not dispute that he and his wife profited from the crypto venture. “The charges are that Kaitlyn and I pocketed 1.3 million dollars, and I just want to come out and say that those charges are true,” he said, adding, “A few hundred thousand dollars went to a home remodel that the Lord told us to do….”

Regalado also said that he and his wife used about half a million dollars of their investors’ funds to pay taxes to the IRS.

CNN reports that in videos Regalado explains how God “convinced him that it was a safe and profitable investment venture.” (“You read it correctly. God’s hand is on INDXcoin and we are launching!” explains the launch video’s description.)

“The Regalados used technical terms to confuse investors and misled them into believing that the coins were valued at between $10-$12 even though they were purchased for $1.50 or, at times, given away, the complaint said.”

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Remembering Unix Desktops – and What We Can Learn From Them

“As important as its historically underhanded business dealings were for its success, Microsoft didn’t have to cheat to win,” argues a new article in the Register.

“The Unix companies were doing a great job of killing themselves off.”

You see, while there were many attempts to create software development standards for Unix, they were too general to do much good — for example Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) — or they became mired in the business consortium fights between the Open Systems Foundation and Unix International, which became known as the Unix wars.

While the Unix companies were busy ripping each other to shreds, Microsoft was smiling all the way to the bank. The core problem was that the Unix companies couldn’t settle on software standards. Independent Software Vendors (ISV) had to write applications for each Unix platform. Each of these had only a minute desktop market share. It simply made no business sense for programmers to write one version of an application for SCO OpenDesktop (also known as OpenDeathtrap), another for NeXTStep, and still another one for SunOS. Does that sound familiar? That kind of thing is still a problem for the Linux desktop, and it’s why I’m a big fan of Linux containerized desktop applications, such as Red Hat’s Flatpak and Canonical’s Snap.

By the time the two sides finally made peace by joining forces in The Open Group in 1996, it was too late. Unix was crowded out on the conventional desktop, and the workstation became pretty much a Sun Microsystems-only play.
Linux’s GPL license created an “enforced” consortia that allowed it to take over, according to the article — and with Linus Torvalds as Linux’s single leader, “it avoided the old Unix trap of in-fighting…

I’ve been to many Linux Plumbers meetings. There, I’ve seen him and the top Linux kernel developers work with each other without any drama. Today’s Linux is a group effort… The Linux distributors and developers have learned their Unix history lessons. They’ve realized that it takes more than open source; it takes open standards and consensus to make a successful desktop operating system.
And the article also points out that one of those early Unix desktops “is still alive, well, and running in about one in four desktops.”

That operating system, of course, is macOS X, the direct descendent of NeXT’s NeXTSTEP. You could argue that macOS, based on the multi-threaded, multi-processing microkernel operating system Mach, BSD Unix, and the open source Darwin, is the most successful of all Unix operating systems.

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