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The Almighty Buck

Dark Patterns Across the Web Are Designed To Trick You 31

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Harry Brignell has posted a 30-minute video documenting dark patterns, deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces (not exclusive to the internet) that trick users into setting up recurring payments, purchasing items added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through pre-checked forms on Facebook games for example. Basically, they're tactics used by online services to get users to do things they wouldn't normally do. Yael Grauer has written an in-depth report on Ars Technica about dark patterns, where he discusses Brignull's work with UX designers and business executives: "Klein [Principal at Users Known and author of UX for Lean Startups] believes many of the worst dark patterns are pushed by businesses, not by designers. 'It's often pro-business at the expense of the users, and the designers often see themselves as the defender or advocate of the user,' she explained. And although Brignull has never been explicitly asked to design dark patterns himself, he said he has been in situations where using them would be an easy solution -- like when a client or boss says they really need a large list of people who have opted in to marketing e-mails. 'The first and easiest trick to have an opt-in is to have a pre-ticked checkbox, but then you can just get rid of that entirely and hide it in the terms of conditions and say that by registering you're going to be opted in to our e-mails,' Brignull said. 'Then you have a 100-percent sign-up rate and you've exceeded your goals. I kind of understand why people do it. If you're only thinking about the numbers and you're just trying to juice the stats, then it's not surprising in the slightest.' 'There's this logical positivist mindset that the only things that have value are those things that can be measured and can empirically be shown to be true, and while that has its merits it also takes us down a pretty dark place,' said digital product designer Cennydd Bowles, who is researching ethical design. 'We start to look at ethics as pure utilitarianism, whatever benefits the most people. Yikes, it has problems.'" Brignull's website has a number of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces.
Democrats

Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC (cnet.com) 117

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Debuts a Dedicated Shop For Kickstarter Products (techcrunch.com) 18

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Today, Amazon announced it's teaming up with Kickstarter to offer those successful Kickstarter products a way to reach more customers through a dedicated section on Amazon's website. Via www.amazon.com/launchpad/kickstarter, the online retailer is now featuring a group of over 300 Kickstarter products across a variety of categories, like electronics, books, home and kitchen, movies and tv, and more. The products can also be browsed by theme, like STEM products, "Always be Learning," "Exquisite Objects," "Inventing the Future," and "Public Benefit," for example. The new Kickstarter section is actually an expansion on Amazon's Launchpad platform, launched a year ago. In July 2015, the retailer debuted a dedicated portal that offered both marketing and sales for hardware and physical goods from younger tech companies. Today, Amazon says it has now worked with over 100 VCs, accelerators and crowdfunders and has helped more than 1,000 launch products across the U.S., the U.K., China, Germany, and France. All startups who participate in Launchpad receive custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon's global fulfillment network, the retailer notes.
Security

Vine's Source Code Was Accidentally Made Public For Five Minutes (theregister.co.uk) 42

An anonymous reader writes from The Register: Vine, the six-second-video-loop app acquired by Twitter in 2012, had its source code made publicly available by a bounty-hunter for everyone to see. The Register reports: "According to this post by @avicoder (Vjex at GitHub), Vine's source code was for a while available on what was supposed to be a private Docker registry. While docker.vineapp.com, hosted at Amazon, wasn't meant to be available, @avicoder found he was able to download images with a simple pull request. After that it's all too easy: the docker pull https://docker.vineapp.com:443/library/vinewww request loaded the code, and he could then open the Docker image and run it. 'I was able to see the entire source code of Vine, its API keys and third party keys and secrets. Even running the image without any parameter, [it] was letting me host a replica of Vine locally.' The code included 'API keys, third party keys and secrets,' he writes. Twitter's bounty program paid out -- $10,080 -- and the problem was fixed in March (within five minutes of him demonstrating the issue)."
Transportation

Amazon Partners With UK Government To Test Drone Deliveries (usatoday.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: [Recent rules from the Federal Aviation Administration mean delivery by drone is years away in the United States, but packages may be winging their way to customers sooner rather than later in the United Kingdom, where Amazon just got permission to begin a new trial of its delivery drones.] The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority gave Amazon permission to test several key drone delivery parameters. They include sending drones beyond the line of sight of their operator in rural and suburban areas, testing sensor performance to make sure the drones can identify and avoid obstacles and allowing a single operator to manage multiple highly-automated drones. U.S. rules are outlined in a 624-page rulebook from the Federal Aviation Administration. They allow commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours. The aircraft must remain within sight of the operator or an observer who is in communication with the operator. The operators must be pass an aeronautics test every 24 months for a certificate as well as a background check by the Transportation Security Administration. The rules govern commercial flights, such as for aerial photography or utilities inspection. Amazon's goal is to use drones to deliver packages up to 5 pound to customers in 30 minutes or less. Amazon released a statement today detailing its partnership with the UK Government that may one day turn its Prime Air drone delivery service into reality.
Microsoft

Microsoft Cuts Xbox One Price To $249 - Would You Buy or Recommend One? (theverge.com) 137

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Microsoft is cutting the price of its Xbox One console to $249. The new price marks the third price cut in less than two months, ahead of the new Xbox One S launch on August 2nd. 500GB versions of the Xbox One are now $249, and this includes bundles with games like Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Quantum Break, Forza Motorsport 6, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Rare Replay. Retailers like Best Buy and Amazon will be selling Microsoft's Xbox One console at the new $249 price point immediately, and the software giant says the consoles will be available at $249 "while supplies last." Microsoft's aggressive Xbox One pricing follows a sales gap between its console and Sony's PlayStation 4. Sony has sold more than 40 million PS4s, but it's not clear exactly how many Xbox Ones have been sold as Microsoft hasn't provided sales figures for quite some time. EA previously revealed Microsoft had sold 19 million Xbox One consoles back in January.
Businesses

Amazon Wants To Sell You Everything, Including Student Loans (qz.com) 49

Amazon sells all kinds of stuff -- some legit, some not as much. So it didn't really come as a big surprise when the company announced that it will now be selling student loans too. Quartz has more details: The e-commerce giant inked a deal with Wells Fargo to offer interest rate discounts on loans to students who are Amazon Prime members. The bank, which is the second largest student lender in the US, will shave off half a percentage point for Amazon "Prime Student" customers who take out student loans to attend college or are looking to refinance their existing student loans.
Businesses

Amazon Loses Huge Footwear Company Because Of Fake Products, a Problem It Denies Is Happening (cnbc.com) 346

Several sellers on Amazon had noted earlier this month that the platform is riddled with counterfeit products and that things have gotten worse after Chinese manufacturers were allowed to sell goods to the consumers in the United States. Amid the report, the German footwear company Birkenstock has announced it will no longer sell its sandals on Amazon. The company added that it will also ban any sales of its products by third-party sellers on Amazon, effectively making its products unavailable on the world's largest online store, according to a report on CNBC. From the report: "The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an 'open market,' creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand," Birkenstock USA CEO David Kahan wrote from the company's U.S. headquarters in Novato, California. "Policing this activity internally and in partnership with Amazon.com has proven impossible."
Cloud

Amazon Isn't Saying If Echo Has Been Wiretapped (zdnet.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes from a report via ZDNet: Since announcing how many government data requests and wiretap orders it receives, Amazon has so far issued two transparency reports. The two reports outline how many subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders the company received to cloud service, Amazon Web Services. The cloud makes up a large portion of all the data Amazon gathers, but the company does also collect vast amounts of data from its retail businesses, mobile services, book purchases, and requests made to Echo. The company's third report is due to be released in a few weeks but an Amazon spokesperson wouldn't comment on whether or not the company will expand its transparency report to include information regarding whether or not the Amazon Echo has been wiretapped. There are reportedly more than three million Amazon Echo speakers out in the wild. Gizmodo filed a freedom of information (FOIA) request with the FBI earlier this year to see if the agency had wiretapped an Echo as part of a criminal investigation. The FBI didn't confirm or deny wiretapping the Echo. Amazon was recently awarded a patent for drone docking and recharging stations that would be built on tall, existing structures like lampposts, cell towers, or church steeples.
Patents

Amazon Patents Way To Turn Lampposts, Church Steeples Into Drone Perches (consumerist.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Consumerist: Amazon has received a patent that shows what drones may be doing when they're not flying throughout the sky delivering packages: sitting on lampposts and church steeples. "Amazon was recently awarded a patent for docking and recharging stations that would be built on tall, existing structures like lampposts, cell towers, or church steeples," reports The Consumerist. "Once the drone is done making a delivery, it would be able to land on the station, recharge and refuel, as well as pick up additional packages." A "central control system" would then be able to control each docking station and connect the docked drone(s) with a local or regional packaged handling center or central facility. Based on weather or package data, the drones may be commanded accordingly. The patent says the system will not only provide directions based to the drone, but will have the ability to redirect the unmanned aerial vehicle based on the most favorable conditions, such as a route with less wind. The patent describes a system in which the drone delivers a package to the platform that then moves the item via a "vacuum tube, dumbwaiter, elevator, or conveyor to the ground level." From there, the package could be transferred to an Amazon Locker or a local delivery person. The docking stations could also act as cell towers that "provide local free or fee-based Wi-Fi services. This can enable cities to provide free Wi-Fi in public parks, buildings, and other public areas without bearing the burden of installing some, or all, of the necessary infrastructure."
Businesses

Theresa May Reshuffles Cabinet, Warns Amazon and Google of Power Shift (arstechnica.co.uk) 227

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: British Prime Minister Theresa May has given a stern warning to big business, telling the public to "think not of the powerful, but you." Specifically, she singled out Google and Amazon for dodging taxes and creating a lot of parliamentary scrutiny. Ars Technica reports: "May has been quick to stamp her brand of conservatism on her party by letting go of key members of Cameron's cabinet. She has so far sacked big hitters such as chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, justice secretary Michael Gove, and culture secretary John Whittingdale. Philip Hammond now has the keys to Number 11, but we're still waiting to hear who will replace Whittingdale, whose remit included the rollout of super fast broadband in the UK. He's also the man behind the White Paper on the future of the BBC, which sought radical changes at the public service broadcaster. So far, 10 cabinet positions have been announced by May. They include Justine Greening as secretary of state for education, and Liz Truss becomes justice secretary, while former London mayor and key Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson -- to the surprise of many -- now heads up the foreign office. May has handed her home secretary job to Amber Rudd -- who will now be responsible for the government's push for greater online surveillance laws. Rudd was previously the minister for energy and climate change." David Davis is now in charge of withdrawing the UK from the European Union. David has for many years "opposed the government's attempts to bring in a so-called Snoopers' Charter." Ars Technica writes, "He's also currently suing the UK government over DRIPA -- legislation that was rushed through by the Tories after the European Court of Justice had ruled that the Data Retention Directive was invalid for failing to have adequate privacy safeguards in place."
The Almighty Buck

Why So Much Coverage Of Amazon Prime Day? The Incentives, Of Course (theguardian.com) 129

Olivia Solon, writing for The Guardian: In July 2015, Amazon declared its own annual holiday: Amazon Prime Day. The retail giant promised deals on a wide range of products for customers signed up to its membership program, Amazon Prime. This is the second Amazon Prime Day, and it's pretty hard to miss. At the time of writing, the #PrimeDay hashtag was one of Twitter's top 10 worldwide trends. Media outlets including the Daily Mail, USA Today, the Telegraph, PC World and CNet are publishing numerous stories about the discounts on offer, and urging readers to sign up for an Amazon Prime trial. What many of those readers won't realise is that publishers are financially incentivised by Amazon to write about Prime Day. By signing up to the retail giant's affiliate programme, Amazon Associates, publishers can earn commissions from linking to products on Amazon.com.In some other news, Amazon announced on Wednesday that the self-created holiday was its biggest sales day ever, with worldwide orders rising more than 60% compared with the previous Prime Day.
Movies

Netflix Is The Least-Cancelled of All Major Streaming Services, Says Study (exstreamist.com) 72

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Exstreamist: A recent survey from IBM suggests that nearly 70% of streaming service subscribers never canceled their subscriptions. One of the more likely reasons subscribers cancel is because their credit cards expire and they never get around to updating the information in each service. The other most likely reasons subscribers cancel is because of advertisements (27%), which was above price (25%). Netflix is the least likely to get cancelled of the major services, according to the survey. Hulu and Amazon had a larger number of total cancellations. In terms of numbers, 40% of consumers have stated they have cancelled either Hulu or Amazon, with only 30% having cancelled Netflix. Shortly behind advertisements and price, 20% of users said a lack in quality or quantity of content would likely make them cancel their service. More towards the bottom, 17% said technical issues that hinder a smooth viewing experience would cause them to cancel. Roughly 73% of subscribers would download Netflix content, according to one survey. Another survey suggests that a majority of Netflix subscribers would rather cancel their subscription than see advertisements.
Businesses

Amazon's Chinese Counterfeit Problem Is Getting Worse (cnbc.com) 205

A report on CNBC, citing sellers, says that counterfeit problem on the platform has gotten worse after it made it easier for Chinese manufacturers to sell goods to U.S. consumers. The report gives an example of a seller Jamie Whaley who started a bedding business on Amazon that reached $700,000 in annual sales within three years. Her patented product called BedBand consists of a set of shock cords, clamps and locks designed to keep fitted bed sheets in place. Whaley found quite an audience, selling up to 200 units a day for $13.99 a set. BedBand climbed into the top 200 selling products in the home and kitchen category. That was 2013. By mid-2015, the business was in a tailspin. Revenue plummeted by half and Whaley was forced to lay off eight employees. Her sheet fastener had been copied by a legion of mostly Chinese knockoffs that undercut BedBand on price and jumped the seller ranks by obtaining scores of reviews that watchdog site Fakespot.com determined were inauthentic and "harmful for real consumers." The report adds:Spend any time surveying Amazon sellers and Whaley's narrative will start sounding like the norm. In Amazon's quest to be the low-cost provider of everything on the planet, the website has morphed into the world's largest flea market -- a chaotic, somewhat lawless, bazaar with unlimited inventory. Always a problem, the counterfeiting issue has exploded this year, sellers say, following Amazon's effort to openly court Chinese manufacturers, weaving them intimately into the company's expansive logistics operation. Merchants are perpetually unsure of who or what may kill their sales on any given day and how much time they'll have to spend hunting down fakers.
Businesses

Amazon Wants People to Pay for Podcasts (bloomberg.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: There are several hundred thousand podcasts available through Apple's podcast app, and all of them cost the same amount: nothing. Starting today, you can have access to a far smaller slate of podcasts for a few bucks a month over at Audible, the audio books service owned by Amazon. Audible is betting that avid podcast fans will pay $4.95 per month for Channels, an exclusive selection of ad-free original podcasts, comedy performances, and audio renditions of written articles. The subscription is free for current Audible members. While Apple has always loomed large over podcasting, other big companies like Amazon, Google, and Spotify are beginning to inch into the space. Channels is Amazon's first major foray into the business and puts it in a position to be both a platform for and creator of new shows. "They are doing to audio what they did with Prime Video -- it's vertical integration, and it puts them in a position where they can firmly participate in the larger development of culture," said Nick Quah, who writes the podcasting newsletter Hot Pod.Is the right move? Will people for it? AdAge writes:A lot of people don't think there will be a Netflix of podcasting. Andy Bowers, chief content officer of Slate's Panoply Network, said the best chance for a subscription model to work would be to offer one that offers ad-free versions of many of the most popular podcasts that exist today. "Short of that -- and I don't see anyone doing that at the moment -- I think the ad-supported version is here to stay for a while," he said. Still, a handful of other podcasting businesses have begun experimenting with paid premium services. Acast, a podcast app, created an option for its podcasters to begin charging for content earlier this year. Midroll Media charges $4.99 a month for a service called Howl that offers access to original shows and archives of popular podcasts like "WTF with Marc Maron."
Android

Google Is Working On Two Android Wear Smartwatches, Says Report (theverge.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes: A new report from Android Police says Google is working on two Android Wear smartwatches. The Verge reports: "The two smartwatches -- one codenamed Angelfish, the other Swordfish -- are said to place a heavy focus on the Google assistant artificial intelligence 'bot' that headlined the company's recent I/O keynote. In terms of size and design, the larger Angelfish watch fits somewhere in between the 42mm and 46mm sizes of Lenovo's Moto 360. It'll feature LTE connectivity, built-in GPS, and a heart rate monitor, so it's got everything necessary for a little independence from your smartphone. The watch design reportedly features three buttons. There's a circular crown like many other Android Wear devices, but Angelfish also has two other buttons, and it's not yet known what they do. The smaller, thinner Swordfish watch has a look that resembles the Pebble Time Round, according to Android Police, with much less bezel surrounding the circular display. It's got just a single button, and might ship without the LTE, GPS, and heart rate sensor included inside the higher-end model. They could appear sometime this fall alongside new Nexus phones and the launch of Android Wear 2.0, though Android Police suspects they'll be announced separately." Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, were able to track a smartwatch wearer's hand movements at an ATM and figure out their pin with 80 percent accuracy on the first try.
EU

European Union's First Cybersecurity Law Gets Green Light (bloomberg.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The European Union approved its first rules on cybersecurity, forcing businesses to strengthen defenses and companies such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. to report attacks. The European Parliament endorsed legislation that will impose security and reporting obligations on service operators in industries such as banking, energy, transport and health and on digital operators like search engines and online marketplaces. The law, voted through on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, also requires EU national governments to cooperate among themselves in the field of network security. The rules "will help prevent cyberattacks on Europe's important interconnected infrastructures," said Andreas Schwab, a German member of the 28-nation EU Parliament who steered the measures through the assembly. EU governments have already supported the legislation. The EU Parliament also noted that network-securitiy incidents resulting from human error, technical difficulties, technical failures or cyberattacks cause annual losses of upwards of $377 billion (340 billion euros).
Transportation

More Than 500,000 Hoverboards Recalled Because of Fire Hazards (go.com) 95

501,000 self-balancing scooters -- more popularly known as hoverboards -- are being recalled due to fire hazard concerns, said The U.S. Consumer Product Safety. The lithium-ion battery packs in the hoverboards can overheat -- which could result in sparking, smoking, fire, and explosion -- the agency added. ABC reports:The recall involves hoverboards from eight manufacturers/importers that are made with lithium-ion battery packs as well as 4,300 from Overstock.com and 1,300 from a store in Pennsylvania. Amazon.com is not listed in the recall, but in February, the online giant worked with the CPSC to offer refunds to any customer who wanted to return hoverboards purchased on the site. Hoverboards by Swagway make up more than half of those recalled -- 267,000. "We are urging consumers to act quickly," CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye told ABC News. "We've concluded pretty definitively that these are not safe products the way they were designed."
Google

Tech Overtakes Finance Among Top Global Companies (cityam.com) 33

An anonymous reader writes:Technology has stolen a march on finance, with the success of companies such as Alphabet and Microsoft helping the innovative sector surpass the traditional world of financial services among the world's top 100 companies over the past year. Technology firms in the list notched up a combined value of $3bn compared to financial firms' $2.7bn and the $2.6bn value of consumer goods companies. Apple held its position at the top of the ranking, compiled by PwC, despite losing $121bn in market value over the past year to the end of March, and the overall value of the world's top 100 firms falling four per cent -- the most significant decrease since the financial crisis, with a cash value of $668bn. Alphabet closed the gap on Apple in second place, narrowing its market capitalisation from $350bn to just $86bn, while Microsoft rounded out the top three. Facebook was in sixth position while Amazon entered the top 10 for the first time. Tech firms have better weathered more choppy conditions in the global markets, particularly conditions in China and Europe's struggle with economic growth.

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