writes "Are you comfortable having your location and Web browsing tracked for marketing purposes? If so, Verizon's got a deal for you.
The wireless giant announced a new program this week called "Smart Rewards" that offers customers credit card-style perks like discounts for shopping, travel and dining. You accrue points through the program by doing things like signing onto the Verizon website, paying your bill online and participating in the company's trade-in program.
Verizon emphasizes that the data it collects is anonymized before it's shared with third parties.
The program is novel in that offers Verizon users some compensation for the collection of their data, which has become big business for telecom and tech companies. Some privacy advocates have pushed data-collecting companies to reward customers for their personal information in the interest of transparency."Link to Original Source
writes "The customer was told he had to delete the tweet before he could re-board.
A Minnesota man was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for a tweet calling a gate agent rude, reported CBS Minnesota Wednesday. After tweeting, the man was removed from the plane and stated he was "forced" to delete the tweet before he could re-board.
Duff Watson is an "A-list" passenger with Southwest, which gives him priority boarding. Watson was miffed when the agent in question told him his two children couldn't board the plane as priority passengers with him, and Watson let her know that Twitter would, in fact, be hearing about this.
"Something to the effect of 'Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,'" is how Watson summarized the tweet to CBS. The family eventually boarded the plane, but according to Watson's daughter, Lucy, the agent threatened to call the cops. Watson relayed that the agent said her safety felt threatened.
Southwest apologized in an e-mail to Watson, gifting him and his two children $50 vouchers. Watson tells CBS he won't be flying on Southwest again."Link to Original Source
writes "Lawsuit-happy porn studio beats a "poor sap" whose pleas of ignorance fail.
Porn studio Malibu Media files more copyright lawsuits than anyone else in the US since the fall of Prenda Law; hundreds of suits against "John Doe" defendants have been filed in just the last few months. Nearly all of those cases settle before the case is decided on the merits.
However, in a rare development yesterday, a Malibu lawsuit proceeded to a judgment—and it was a slam dunk for the porn studio. In a terse five-page order (PDF), US District Judge Robert Jonker tore apart defendant Don Bui's arguments that using BitTorrent and the site Kickass Torrents to get porn files didn't violate Malibu's copyright.
Jonker saw guidance in the recent Aereo case as well, calling it "instructive even though it is dealing with a different aspect of copyright infringement." Six justices found that Aereo's "tiny antennas" scheme wouldn't get around copyright law, and in Jonker's reading, even the three dissenting justices "simply believed the proper pathway to liability was contributory infringement rather than direct infringement." The takeaway message of the Aereo case is that "the ever-changing technological means of producing unauthorized copies of protected works must not obscure the basic protection of the Copyright Act for copyright holders."
Malibu is sure to show off the Bui case as a feather in its cap to other defendants, especially after it gets a ruling on damages. The company's lawyers never hesitate to bring up the Pennsylvania "bellwether trial" which resulted in a $112,500 judgment against the only defendant who didn't settle."Link to Original Source
writes "Following through on promises from new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft continues to add support for non-Microsoft technologies, allowing them to run well on the company’s Azure cloud hosting platform.
The company has partnered with two organizations that offer popular open source programs for managing cloud resources—Packer and OpenNebula. Microsoft is releasing drivers that will make it easy to use the programs on Azure, as well as with Microsoft server software for in-house deployments.
Packer is increasingly being used by system administrators to create and then manage the operations of virtual machine images. Running from any OS, Packer assembles and configures the necessary components for a virtual machine and can create identical copies to run on different platforms, such as Linux and Windows.
Packer can also work with popular open source configuration tools such as Chef and Puppet to automate the procedures of rolling out many virtual machines at once.
“Packer has been so popular lately that we heard from people that they want it see it on Azure,” Mahugh said.
Microsoft is also adding support for the OpenNebula cloud management software. OpenNebula could be a key technology for companies interested in running hybrid clouds, a model in which some operations run on a public cloud like Azure and others run in-house, perhaps on a private cloud."Link to Original Source
writes "A 27-year-old Illinois woman was arrested Monday after posting a selfie to Facebook showing off a dress that she allegedly stole from a local boutique.
Morties Boutique in West Frankfort took to Facebook to describe the hijacked goods. Somebody then sent the shop a link to a Facebook post in which a woman is seen wearing the colorful leopard-pattern dress, with the caption: "Love my dress." Surveillance photos allegedly captured Danielle Saxton stealing the dress earlier this month.
"I called the police department and said, 'It just hit Facebook,' and they were on it in two seconds," shop owner Gay Morton Williams told Reuters.
The arrest of Saxton is the latest example of people wanted by the authorities giving themselves away on Facebook."Link to Original Source
writes "Verizon claimed Internet fast lanes will help deaf, blind, and disabled.
No company has lobbied more fiercely against network neutrality than Verizon, which filed the lawsuit that overturned the FCC's rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking and discriminating against Web content. But the absence of net neutrality rules isn't just good for Verizon—it's also good for the blind, deaf, and disabled, Verizon claims.
That's what Verizon lobbyists said in talks with congressional staffers, according to a Mother Jones report last month. "Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea," the report said. With "fast lanes," Web services—including those designed for the blind, deaf, and disabled—could be prioritized in exchange for payment.
Now, advocacy groups for deaf people have filed comments with the FCC saying they don't agree with Verizon's position."Link to Original Source
writes "Giant photos are slowing the Web down. Google has a plan to make your pages load faster.
The search giant has developed a new kind of image format that promises to shrink the size of Web photos and graphic files down by about 35%. That's a big deal, considering that images are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the size of an average website — a figure that grew by more than 30% last year, according to the HTTP Archive.
To boost load times for websites, Google (GOOGL, Tech30) developed a new image format, called WebP. At its I/O developers conference last month, Google announced that it has converted most of YouTube's thumbnail images to WebP, improving the site's load time by 10%. That may not sound like much, but Google says that alone has saved users a cumulative 140,000 hours each day.
Google has also changed the Chrome Web store and Google Play store over to WebP, speeding up load times on those sites by nearly a third. Facebook, Netflix, eBay (EBAY, Tech30) and several other websites have also begun supporting WebP."Link to Original Source
writes "500 Mbps uploads, 500 Mbps downloads are now a reality on FiOS
For existing Verizon FiOS customers (or those that are looking to adopt the service), there’s some good news to report this morning. Verizon has made significant upgrades to its network infrastructure and as a result, data upload speeds will now match existing download speeds. This means that customers on the “lowly” 15 Mbps service will seen a 3x performance in upload speeds (up from 5 Mbps) while those on the range-topping 500 Mbps service will see their speeds boost by 5x (up from 100 Mbps)"Link to Original Source
writes "FOIA request turns up 9 years of records, including plaintext credit card numbers
In May 2014, Cyrus Farivar reported on his efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, he wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked.
ASK ARS: CAN I SEE WHAT INFORMATION THE FEDS HAVE ON MY TRAVEL?
One Ars editor tries to FOIA travel documents on himself.
But instead of providing what he had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So he appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.
The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. His own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain:
The IP address that I used to buy the ticket
His credit card number (in full)
The language he used
Notes on his phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change
The breadth of long-term data retention illustrates yet another way that the federal government enforces its post-September 11 "collect it all" mentality."Link to Original Source
writes "Dozens of companies were sued over an old Polaroid digital imaging patent.
The most litigious "patent troll" in the US has lost a major case after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found its patent was too abstract.
Court declines to stop software patents altogether.
The ruling from last week is one of the first to apply new Supreme Court guidance about when ideas are too "abstract" to be patented. In the recent Alice v. CLS Bank case, the high court made clear that adding what amounts to fancy computer language to patents on basic ideas shouldn't hold up in court.
The patents in this case describe a type of "device profile" that allows digital images to be accurately displayed on different devices. US Patent No. 6,128,415 was originally filed by Polaroid in 1996. After a series of transfers, in 2012 the patent was sold to Digitech Image Technologies, a branch of Acacia Research Corporation, the largest publicly traded patent assertion company. A study on "patent trolls" by RPX found that Acacia Research Corporation was the most litigious troll of 2013, having filed 239 patent lawsuits last year."Link to Original Source
writes "Report reveals suspicious ticketing patterns at dozens of Chicago intersections.
At least 13,000 Chicago motorists have been cited with undeserved tickets thanks to malfunctioning red-light cameras, according to a 10-month investigation published Friday by the Chicago Tribune. The report found that the $100 fines were a result of "faulty equipment, human tinkering or both."
According to the investigation:
Cameras that for years generated just a few tickets daily suddenly caught dozens of drivers a day. One camera near the United Center rocketed from generating one ticket per day to 56 per day for a two-week period last summer before mysteriously dropping back to normal.
Tickets for so-called rolling right turns on red shot up during some of the most dramatic spikes, suggesting an unannounced change in enforcement. One North Side camera generated only a dozen tickets for rolling rights out of 100 total tickets in the entire second half of 2011. Then, over a 12-day spike, it spewed 563 tickets—560 of them for rolling rights.
Many of the spikes were marked by periods immediately before or after when no tickets were issued—downtimes suggesting human intervention that should have been documented. City officials said they cannot explain the absence of such records."Link to Original Source
writes "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says budget constraints have forced his agency "to operate with an IT infrastructure that would be unacceptable to any well-managed business." This is why the FCC website has crashed multiple times when inundated by people trying to submit comments on the commission's network neutrality plan, Wheeler says.
The comments website relies on a backend system created in 1996. To handle the influx of comments, the FCC extended the deadline and set up an e-mail address that could accept comments into the official record.
And it could get worse, as Congress is fighting over whether to cut the FCC's budget or approve a requested funding increase.
"Efforts to upgrade this IT capability were a casualty of sequestration," Wheeler wrote in a blog post yesterday. "Most recently, the agency requested of Congress approximately $13 million for IT upgrades in the FY 2015 appropriation. I appreciate that the Senate subcommittee has provided the Commission with full funding in its FY 2015 spending bill, so that we can make these important upgrades. Unfortunately, the appropriations bill passed by the House today would fund the FCC at $17 million below current levels and $53 million below our overall budget request, dramatically undermining any effort to modernize our IT systems.""Link to Original Source
writes "Facebook Inc is testing a new "buy" button on its website that will let consumers purchase products that are advertised on its social network.
The new service, which Facebook described on Thursday as a test with a "few small and medium-sized businesses" in the United States, represents the Internet social networking company's latest effort to play a bigger role in the e-commerce business.
Facebook said its new Buy button will be available on the mobile and desktop PC version of its website and will allow consumers to purchase goods directly from participating businesses."Link to Original Source
writes "Microsoft has started accepting requests from users in Europe who want to remove search links from Bing under a recent “right-to-be-forgotten” ruling by Europe’s top court.
The company has asked European residents, who want Microsoft to block search results that show on Bing in response to searches of their names, to fill up a four-part online form.
Besides the name and country of residence of the person and the details of the pages to be blocked, the form also asks if the person is a public figure or has or expects a role that involves trust, leadership or safety.
Microsoft does not guarantee removal of links after they are submitted for removal through the form. It will also consider other sources of information to verify or supplement what is provided in the form.
The information provided will help the company “consider the balance” between the applicant’s individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, in line with European law, Microsoft said."Link to Original Source
writes "Ever since the release of the movie Jurassic Park, the Velociraptor has been in tough competition with the Tyrannosaurs rex for the most feared and dangerous dinosaur of all time. Its razor-sharp teeth, lighting speed and purported ruthless nature made it an ideal predator across the lands that dinosaurs roamed.
Now scientists have discovered fossils that indicate that some members of the raptor family may have terrorized the skies as well.
While working in the Chinese province of Liaoning near the border of North Korea in 2012, researchers from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles found the fossilized remains of Changyuraptor yangi — a relative of the mighty Velociraptor that had the longest feathers of any known dinosaur, and not two, but four wings.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles told The Washington Post. “It is a stunning specimen and it was stunning to see the size of the feathers. This is the dinosaur with the longest known feathers — by far. There is nothing like this by a very good distance. The feathers were one-fourth the size of the animal.”"Link to Original Source