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Today's Smart Brevity count: 934 words, a 4-minute read.
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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A call from the CEO: The quarter's ending, and she needs a big transfer, stat, for a last-minute acquisition. The line's a bit fuzzy — she says she's driving — but before it cuts out, she gets the comptroller to wire millions to an external account, Kaveh writes.
The catch: That wasn't the CEO on the line. It was a deepfake — an AI-generated voice clone, trained on hours of her speech, with made-up background noise to mask its shortcomings.
What's happening: This futuristic scam has already hit at least three companies, according to Symantec, a prominent cybersecurity company. And experts worry it's the hint of a new reality for businesses.
The big picture: Video and audio deepfakes are improving at a frightening pace, and they're increasingly easy to make.
Even if companies were clamoring for defenses, few tools exist to keep harmful deepfakes at bay, says Symantec's Saurabh Shintre. The challenge of automatically spotting a deepfake is almost insurmountable, and there are hurdles ahead of a promising alternative: creating a digital breadcrumb trail for unaltered media.
What's out there already isn't cheap.
As a result, businesses are largely defenseless for now, leaving an opening for a well-timed deepfake to drop like a bomb.
Go deeper: Companies take the battle to online mobs
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty
Now these takeovers are catching 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren's eye, Axios' Dan Primack reports.
What's happening: Warren is proposing a bill that would kill much of the leveraged buyout industry. Not just make meaningful reform or increase regulatory oversight, but treat it like Pennywise treats the schoolchildren of Derry.
The big picture: Her bill won't become law, despite having several Democratic co-sponsors (including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand). But Warren has a megaphone right now, and has shown a deft ability to translate complex financial matters for debate and town hall audiences.
Her intention may be to put more of the equity back in private equity, thus forcing firms to make more responsible investment decisions, but the increased risk profiles and competitive disadvantages would stop many firms in their tracks — and likely end the turnaround industry.
Private equity is obviously crying foul. Sources tell Axios that Warren's rationale — detailed in a Medium post — is cherry-picked, focused on a pair of industries that were self-immolating regardless of private equity's involvement.
The week took you for a ride? Don't worry — catch up on Future's top stories:
1. The future began 40 years ago: The automation trap
2. Reskilling-in-a-box: Another moneymaker for Amazon
3. Becoming a robot: Elon Musk's plan to merge with AI
4. The bacchanalia: The relentless jostling of the financial system
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The first-ever image of quantum entanglement (Dan Robitzski — Futurism)
Tesla is mirroring Detroit's worst habits (Joann Muller — Axios)
Two California quakes triggered 16,000 more (Derek Watkins — NYT)
Those Boston Dynamics bots are leaving the lab (James Vincent — The Verge)
Drilling into the DEA's pain pill database (WaPo)
Google Glass, in a Belfast mall. Photo: NurPhoto/Getty
Google Glass, the Silicon Valley giant's tech-infused eyewear, never got big, in part because of steep privacy concerns around the built-in camera, writes Erica.
Esaïe Prickett, a 12-year-old with autism interviewed by Metz, was part of a Stanford clinical trial that sought to determine if Google Glass could teach kids like him to make eye contact and understand different human emotions.
Yes, but: While Google Glass may be a useful teaching tool for kids with autism, the privacy questions around the tech still stand.
Have a great weekend!