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+ - Firefox's Optional Tracking Protection Reduces Load Time For News Sites By 44%

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: Former Mozilla software engineer Monica Chew and Computer Science researcher Georgios Kontaxis recently released a paper that examines Firefox’s optional Tracking Protection feature. The duo found that with Tracking Protection enabled, the Alexa top 200 news sites saw a 67.5 percent reduction in the number of HTTP cookies set. Furthermore, performance benefits included a 44 percent median reduction in page load time and 39 percent reduction in data usage.

+ - From Amazon Security Engineer to Homeless 2

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: I will be homeless and without any resources in one week. Any advice is welcome. Seattle/King County shelters are overcrowded and public housing hasn't accepted applications for months.

I started working at Amazon Nov 2013 as an E-Commerce Platform Security Engineer. I was an unusual applicant with special considerations — I have persistent chronic pain from a cancer that has been surgically treated but took years to be diagnosed. I was assured before being hired that I could get pain management and still work for Amazon.

A mere four months into working before management started to arrange special meetings for me. I wasn't performing "on the right trajectory" for an Amazon employee. I mentioned the Fentanyl transdermal patches as a source of brain fog, but my boss, perhaps being a security guy and suspicious of everything, actually had the audacity to imply I was wearing some sort of labeled tape placebo, and he recommended if this is what's holding me back, I get off the stuff ASAP. Two months of withdrawal later, and my job performance was even worse, despite ice packs and daily physical therapy. At this point I developed a crippling sense of fear pervasive in everything I did, personal or professional, and persistent chest pain became the new norm.

In pain every day, my motivation collapsed. I've been living on savings until now. I've applied for Leave of Absence as well as Short/Long term disability, but I have yet to collect any benefits. Despite my established symptomatology of cancer history and chronic pain, the Disability evaluators have insisted on a psychiatric evaluation (which has taken months, services are booked to forever out here). I'm starting to feel like all these psych requests are a way for the Disability evaluators to run me in circles and not pay any compensation.

Where did I go wrong? Should Amazon have accommodated my illness and cut me more slack? Are there companies that are more understanding of chronic illness? I was getting good work done. I can write testable, correct, highly-performant software for an implementation which spans an entire service stack. But of course, so can most of you. I'm clearly a lesser job candidate. Is there a place in the world for me besides Section 8 HUD housing?

+ - Apple and Google attend spy summit in the UK

Submitted by Presto Vivace
Presto Vivace writes: APPLE AND GOOGLE JUST ATTENDED A CONFIDENTIAL SPY SUMMIT IN A REMOTE ENGLISH MANSION

The three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security.

Among an extraordinary list of attendees were a host of current or former heads from spy agencies such as the CIA and British electronic surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Other current or former top spooks from Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden were also in attendance. Google, Apple, and telecommunications company Vodafone sent some of their senior policy and legal staff to the discussions. And a handful of academics and journalists were also present.

According to an event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?” “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”

The most disturbing part of this is the number of journalists present.

+ - Google and Gates-Backed Khan Academy Introduces 'Grit'-Based Classroom Funding 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Their intentions are no doubt good, but some will be troubled by Google and Khan Academy's recently-concluded LearnStorm initiative, which pitted kids-against-kids, schools-against-schools, and cities-against-cities in a 3-month learning challenge for prizes based not only on students' mastery of math skills on Khan Academy, but also their perceived 'hustle' (aka 'grit'). "Points are earned by mastering math skills and also for taking on challenging new concepts and persevering," explained a Khan Academy FAQ. A blog entry further explained, "They've earned points and prizes not only for mastering math skills but also for showing 'hustle,' a metric we created to measure grit, perseverance, and growth. They competed over 200,000 hours of learning and 13.6 million standards-aligned math problems. In addition, thanks to the generosity of Google.org, DonorsChoose.org, and Comcast’s Internet Essentials, 34 underserved schools unlocked new devices for their classrooms and free home internet service for eligible families, increasing student access to online learning tools like Khan Academy." Apparently funded by a $2 million Google grant, the Google, Khan Academy, and DonorsChoose grit-based classroom funding comes on the heels of the same organizations' gender-based classroom funding initiative. Supported by some of the world's wealthiest individuals and corporations, Khan Academy's Board members include a Google Board member (Diane Green), spouse of a Google Board member (Ann Doerr), and the Managing Partner of Bill Gates' bgC3 (Larry Cohen); former Board members include Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

+ - How Employers Get Out of Paying Their Workers

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com writes: We love to talk about crime in America and usually the rhetoric is focused on the acts we can see: bank heists, stolen bicycles and cars, alleyway robberies. But Zachary Crockett writes at Pricenomics that wage theft one of the more widespread crimes in our country today — the non-payment of overtime hours, the failure to give workers a final check upon leaving a job, paying a worker less than minimum wage, or, most flagrantly, just flat out not paying a worker at all. Most commonly, wage theft comes in the form of overtime violations. In a 2008 study, the Center for Urban Economic Development surveyed 4,387 workers in low-wage industries and found that some 76% of full-time workers were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers and the average worker with a violation had put in 11 hours of overtime—hours that were either underpaid or not paid at all. Nearly a quarter of the workers in the sample came in early and/or stayed late after their shift during the previous work week. Of these workers, 70 percent did not receive any pay at all for the work they performed outside of their regular shift. In total, unfairly withheld wages in these three cities topped $3 billion. Generalizing this for the rest of the U.S.’s low-wage workforce (some 30 million people), researchers estimate that wage theft could be costing Americans upwards of $50 billion per year.

Last year, the Economic Policy Institute made what is, to date, the most ambitious attempt to quantify the extent of reported wage theft in the U.S.and determined that “the total amount of money recovered for the victims of wage theft who retained private lawyers or complained to federal or state agencies was at least $933 million.” Obviously, the nearly $1 billion collected is only the tip of the wage-theft iceberg, since most victims never sue and never complain to the government. Commissioner Su of California says wage theft has harmed not just low-wage workers. “My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history,” says Su. “This has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers.”

+ - GM: That Car You Bought? We're Really The Ones Who Own It.

Submitted by Presto Vivace
Presto Vivace writes:

Congratulations! You just bought a new Chevy, GMC, or Cadillac. You really like driving it. And it’s purchased, not leased, and all paid off with no liens, so it’s all yours isn’t it? Well, no, actually: according to GM, it’s still theirs. You just have a license to use it. At least, that’s what an attorney for GM said at a hearing this week, Autoblog reports. Specifically, attorney Harry Lightsey said, “It is [GM’s] position the software in the vehicle is licensed by the owner of the vehicle.”... ...The U.S. Copyright Office is currently holding a series of hearings on whether or not anyone other than the manufacturer of a car has a right to tinker with that car’s copyrighted software. And with the way modern design goes, that basically means with the car, at all.

+ - YouTube Live Streams Now Support HTML5 Playback And 60fps Video

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: YouTube today announced it is enabling HTML5 playback for live streams. At the same time, live streams can now be viewed at 60 frames per second (fps). A few puzzle pieces had to come together to make this possible. On October 29, YouTube quietly turned on 60fps support for videos uploaded on that date and later. While clips uploaded before that date remain at 30fps, new videos shot at 60fps suddenly started playing back at their proper framerate.

+ - Part of Antarctica Suddenly Started Melting at a Rate of 14 Trillion Gal. a Year

Submitted by merbs
merbs writes: Sometime in 2009, a long-stable, glacier-filled region in Antarctica suddenly began to melt. Fast. A team of scientists with the University of Bristol made the alarming observation by looking at data from the CryoSat-2 satellite: The glaciers around the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, which had showed no signs of change through 2008, had begun losing 55 trillion liters (14.5 trillion gallons) of ice a year. And they evidenced no signs of slowing down.

+ - Australian defence controls could criminalise teaching encryption

Submitted by Presto Vivace
Presto Vivace writes: How the DSGL covers encryption

The DSGL contains detailed technical specifications. Very roughly, it covers encryption above a certain “strength” level, as measured by technical parameters such as “key length” or “field size”.

The practical question is how high the bar is set: how powerful must encryption be in order to be classified as dual-use?

The bar is currently set low. For instance, software engineers debate whether they should use 2,048 or 4,096 bits for the RSA algorithm. But the DSGL classifies anything over 512 bits as dual-use. In reality, the only cryptography not covered by the DSGL is cryptography so weak that it would be imprudent to use.

Moreover, the DSGL doesn’t just cover encryption software: it also covers systems, electronics and equipment used to implement, develop, produce or test it.

In short, the DSGL casts an extremely wide net, potentially catching open source privacy software, information security research and education, and the entire computer security industry in its snare.

Most ridiculous, though, are some badly flawed technicalities. As I have argued before, the specifications are so imprecise that they potentially include a little algorithm you learned at primary school called division. If so, then division has become a potential weapon, and your calculator (or smartphone, computer, or any electronic device) is a potential delivery system for it.

+ - The Myth of Outsourcing's Efficiency

Submitted by Presto Vivace
Presto Vivace writes: Why outsourcing winds up producing cost creep over time

Outsouring over time starts to create its own bureaucracy bloat. It’s the modern corporate version of one of the observations of C. Northcote Parkinson: “Officials make work for each other.” As Clive describes, the first response to the problems resulting from outsourcing is to try to bury them, since outsourcing is a corporate religion and thus cannot be reversed even when the evidence comes in against it. And then when those costs start becoming more visible, the response is to try to manage them, which means more work (more managerial cost!) and/or hiring more outside specialists (another transfer to highly-paid individuals).

+ - North Carolina Still Wants To Block Municipal Broadband->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: In February, when the FCC rolled out its net neutrality rules, it also voted to override state laws that let Texas and North Carolina block ISPs created by local governments and public utilities. These laws frequently leave citizens facing a monopoly or duopoly with no recourse, so the FCC abolished them. Now, North Carolina has sued the FCC to get them back. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper claims, "the FCC unlawfully inserted itself between the State and the State’s political subdivisions." He adds that the new rule is "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act; and is otherwise contrary to law."
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