EU

Facebook To Put 1.5 Billion Users Out of Reach of New EU Privacy Law (reuters.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Facebook: If a new European law restricting what companies can do with people's online data went into effect tomorrow, almost 1.9 billion Facebook users around the world would be protected by it. The online social network is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller. Facebook members outside the United States and Canada, whether they know it or not, are currently governed by terms of service agreed with the company's international headquarters in Ireland. Next month, Facebook is planning to make that the case for only European users, meaning 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on May 25. That removes a huge potential liability for Facebook, as the new EU law allows for fines of up to 4 percent of global annual revenue for infractions, which in Facebook's case could mean billions of dollars.
Crime

Former FCC Broadband Panel Chair Arrested For Fraud (dslreports.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: The former chair of a panel built by FCC boss Ajit Pai to advise the agency on broadband matters has been arrested for fraud. Elizabeth Ann Pierce, former CEO of Quintillion Networks, was appointed by Pai last April to chair the committee, but her tenure only lasted until September. Pierce resigned from her role as Quintillion CEO last August after investigators found she was engaged in a scam that tricked investors into pouring money into a multi-million dollar investment fraud scheme. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pierce convinced two investment firms that the company had secured contracts for a high-speed fiber-optic system that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. She pitched the system as a way to improve Alaska's connectivity to the rest of the country, but the plan was largely a fabrication, law enforcement officials say. "As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in prepared remarks. "Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counterparty signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce's deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe." Quintillion says it began cooperating with lawmakers as soon as allegations against Pierce surfaced last year. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Earth

Should We Revive Extinct Species? (washingtonpost.com) 203

An anonymous reader writes: The last male northern white rhinoceros died just last week, and a total of just 29,000 rhinoceroses now remain on earth. But National Geographic reports that "the genetic material of several northern white rhinos has been stored away," and scientists hope to give birth to another using in vitro fertilization -- or to breed a hybrid using a genetically similar southern white rhino.
Meanwhile, a postdoctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology reports that scientists are seriously considering the possibility of "de-extincting" the Carolina parakeet, America's only native parrot, which became extinct 100 years ago. Thanks to the data I compiled as well as cutting-edge machine learning approaches to analyze those data, my colleagues and I were able to reconstruct the Carolina parakeets' likely range and climate niche, [which] turned out to be much smaller than previously believed... While this may seem rather minor, some scientists consider the Carolina parakeet one of the top candidates for 'de-extinction', a process in which DNA is harvested from specimens and used to "resurrect" extinct species... If someone were to spend millions of dollars doing all of the genetic and breeding work to bring back this species, or any other, how will they figure out where to release these birds...? Whether or not de-extinction is a worthwhile use of conservation effort and money is another question, best answered by someone other than me. But this is just an example of one potential use of this type of research. "
It seems like all kinds of havoc could ensue if we released a resurrected species back into the modern ecosystem. And yet Harvard researchers are already working to breed a new creature that's half-elephant, half Wooly Mammoth.

What do Slashdot's readers think? Should we revive extinct species?
Google

Oracle Wins Revival of Billion-Dollar Case Against Google (bloomberg.com) 332

Google could owe Oracle billions of dollars after an appeals court said it didn't have the right to use the Oracle-owned Java programming code in its Android operating system on mobile devices. From a report: Google's use of Java shortcuts to develop Android went too far and was a violation of Oracle's copyrights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled. The case was remanded to a federal court in California to determine how much the Alphabet unit should pay.

The dispute is over pre-written directions known as application program interfaces, or APIs, which can work across different types of devices and provide the instructions for things like connecting to the internet or accessing certain types of files. By using the APIs, programmers don't have to write new code from scratch to implement every function in their software or change it for every type of device. The case has divided Silicon Valley for years, testing the boundaries between the rights of those who develop interface code and those who rely on it to develop software programs.

Facebook

FTC Probing Facebook For Use of Personal Data: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 78

An anonymous reader shares a report: Facebook is under investigation by a U.S. privacy watchdog over the use of personal data of 50 million users by a data analytics firm to help elect President Donald Trump. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree of its handing of user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge, according to a person familiar with the matter. Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time. If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company thousands of dollars a day per violation.
Businesses

US Utilities Have Finally Realized Electric Cars May Save Them (qz.com) 297

Pity the utility company. For decades, electricity demand just went up and up, as surely as the sun rose in the east. Power companies could plan ahead with confidence. No longer. From a report: This year, the Tennessee Valley Authority scrapped its 20-year projections through 2035, since it was clear they had drastically underestimated the extent to which renewable energy would depress demand for electricity from the grid. But there is a bright spot for utilities: electric vehicles (EV), which make up 1% of the US car market.

For years, that market barely registered on utilities' radar. As EVs find growing success, utilities are building charging infrastructure and arranging generous rebates. Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and New Jersey's PSE&G have partnered with carmakers to offer thousands of dollars in rebates for BMW, Nissan, and other brands. Now utilities are asking Congress for help as they attempt to keep tapping into EV demand. A collection of 36 of the nation's largest utilities wrote a letter (PDF) to congressional leadership on March 13, asking for a lift on the cap on EV tax credits. The signatories' include California's Pacific Gas & Electric, New York's Consolidated Edison, the southeast's Duke Energy Company, and others covering almost every state. At the moment, Americans who buy electric vehicles receive a $7,500 federal tax credit (along with some state incentives) for each vehicle.

Piracy

US Navy Under Fire In Mass Software Piracy Lawsuit (torrentfreak.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: In 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Navy began using BS Contact Geo, a 3D virtual reality application developed by German company Bitmanagement. The Navy reportedly agreed to purchase licenses for use on 38 computers, but things began to escalate. While Bitmanagement was hopeful that it could sell additional licenses to the Navy, the software vendor soon discovered the U.S. Government had already installed it on 100,000 computers without extra compensation. In a Federal Claims Court complaint filed by Bitmanagement two years ago, that figure later increased to hundreds of thousands of computers. Because of the alleged infringement, Bitmanagement demanded damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. In the months that followed both parties conducted discovery and a few days ago the software company filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the court to rule that the U.S. Government is liable for copyright infringement. According to the software company, it's clear that the U.S. Government crossed a line. In its defense, the U.S. Government had argued that it bought concurrent-use licenses, which permitted the software to be installed across the Navy network. However, Bitmanagement argues that it is impossible as the reseller that sold the software was only authorized to sell PC licenses. In addition, the software company points out that the word "concurrent" doesn't appear in the contracts, nor was there any mention of mass installations. The full motion brings up a wide range of other arguments as well which, according to Bitmanagement, make it clear that the U.S. Government is liable for copyright infringement.
Transportation

Bay Area Cities Consider Rideshare Tax On Uber, Lyft (arstechnica.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A local city council member is beginning to float the idea of taxing ridehailing companies like Uber and Lyft as a possible way to raise millions of dollars and help pay for local public transportation and infrastructure improvements. If the effort is successful, Oakland could become the first city in California -- Uber and Lyft's home state -- to impose such a tax. However, it's not clear whether Oakland or any other city in the Golden State has the authority to do so under current state rules. Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan told the East Bay Express that she wants the city council to put forward a ballot measure that would tax such rides. A similar proposal in nearby San Francisco, projecting a fee of $0.20 to $1 per ride, would allow the city to collect an estimated $12.5 to $62.5 million annually. However, an October 2017 city analysis noted that San Francisco "cannot initiate locally without state authorizing legislation" and that the fee "may disproportionately impact lower-income households."
Displays

Samsung's New TVs Are Almost Invisible (qz.com) 158

Mike Murphy reports via Quartz of Samsung's new top-of-the-line televisions announced at an event in New York today: Samsung's new QLED line of 4K TVs features a technology the company is calling "Ambient Mode." Before you mount the TV, you'll snap a picture of the wall it's going to hang on -- it doesn't matter if it's brick, wood, patterned wallpaper, or just a white wall -- and then after it's up, you can set that picture as the TV's background. The result is something that looks like a floating black rectangle mounted on a wall. Samsung even includes a digital version of the shadow this black rectangle would cast on the wall, as if there really wasn't a large LED panel sitting in the middle of the thin metal strips. There are five QLED models, with minor tweaks between them, ranging in size from 49 inches, up to an absolutely massive 88 inches. The televisions have a built-in timer so that the ambient setting will turn off after a while, in order to spare your electricity bill. Viewing the televisions before Samsung's event, the ambient really did appear to blend them into the walls at first blush. One, against a fake brick wall, was indistinguishable from what was behind it until you really got close up to the screen. The distinction on another, attempting to mimic a painted off-white wall, was a little more obvious. But that's not really the point -- the mode is just intended to give the illusion of invisibility between watching TV, and when you want to show off your new television to a visitor. Pricing isn't available but you can expect them to range from a few thousands dollars all the way up to $20,000 for the largest, sharpest models. Samsung also announced that it's partnering with The Weather Channel, The New York Times, and others to overlay content on the ambient TVs. They will also be able to control any smart device that can control to Samsung's SmartThings system, like Amazon Echoes, Ring doorbells, and Philips Hue Lights. Bixby is baked into the remote to help you search for content and cater to commands.
Software

Time To Bring Back the Software User Conference (zdnet.com) 43

Holger Mueller, writing for ZDNet (condensed for space): Every tech company has a user conference these days. And is it just me, or are they all starting to feel the exact same? Same announcements, same message, same speakers, same venue. Rinse, repeat. On top of this sameness, irrelevant gimmicks and lack of substance threaten to drag the tech user conference into obsolescence. But all is not lost. Here are a few areas in which tech conferences are going astray, and a few ideas about how to fix them.

It's about the product. Users attend conferences to learn more about a vendor's software. So product needs to get a lot of air time. Yes, services matter too-but it's the product that people have taken time out of their busy schedules to learn about.
Have a motivational speaker who matters.
Demo software. Many attendees are expert users. Vendors need to demonstrate they, too, are experts with their own product. The best way to do this is to demo the product.
Subject expertise beats celebrity. Yes, user conferences are about inspiration, but a celebrity, soap opera star, or a talk show host is not something an enterprise software user can relate to their work and is definitely not why they spend 3-4 days and a few thousand dollars/euros to attend a conference.
Limit the philanthropy. It's great for vendors to give back to a purpose outside of the software. But it should not be 50 percent of a keynote.
Users want to network. Vendors should give users a chance to network. Not just informally, but in a planned way.
Party hard but responsibly.

The Courts

Volkswagen Settles Diesel Emissions Lawsuit Right Before Trial Set To Begin (theverge.com) 74

Volkswagen settled a major diesel emissions class action lawsuit brought by hundreds of vehicle owners right before the case was set to go to trial. "The German auto giant's U.S. division settled the lawsuit brought by a North Carolina man and over 300 other owners of diesel cars who allege fraud and unfair trade practices," reports The Verge. From the report: The trial could have featured testimony from current and former VW executives and would likely have caused a spate of bad press for the automaker regarding the Dieselgate scandal. Since it first broke in 2015, the controversy has led to the resignation of VW's CEO, seen a handful of executives sentenced to jail, and resulted in billions of dollars in fines and settlements. VW is being sued by some consumers after it admitted to using software to cheat on diesel emissions tests, sparking the biggest scandal to hit the auto industry in decades. David Doar, the North Carolina man along with more than 300 other U.S. VW diesel owners, rejected settlement offers from a 2016 class action that would have reimbursed them for the value of their vehicles. Nearly all U.S. owners of affected VW vehicles agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016, which included buyback offers and additional compensation for about 500,000 owners. But according to Reuters, some 2,000 owners have opted out, and most are pursuing separate claims seeking additional compensation.
The Courts

Manafort Left an Incriminating Paper Trail Because He Couldn't Figure Out How to Convert PDFs to Word Files (slate.com) 189

There are two types of people in this world: those who know how to convert PDFs into Word documents and those who are indicted for money laundering. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the second kind of person , Slate reports. From the report: Back in October, a grand jury indictment charged Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates with a variety of crimes, including conspiring "to defraud the United States." On Thursday, special counsel Robert Mueller filed a new indictment against the pair, substantially expanding the charges. As one former federal prosecutor told the Washington Post, Manafort and Gates' methods appear to have been "extensive and bold and greedy with a capital 'G,' but ... not all that sophisticated." One new detail from the indictment, however, points to just how unsophisticated Manafort seems to have been. Here's the relevant passage from the indictment. I've bolded the most important bits:

Manafort and Gates made numerous false and fraudulent representations to secure the loans. For example, Manafort provided the bank with doctored [profit and loss statements] for [Davis Manafort Inc.] for both 2015 and 2016, overstating its income by millions of dollars. The doctored 2015 DMI P&L submitted to Lender D was the same false statement previously submitted to Lender C, which overstated DMI's income by more than $4 million. The doctored 2016 DMI P&L was inflated by Manafort by more than $3.5 million. To create the false 2016 P&L, on or about October 21, 2016, Manafort emailed Gates a .pdf version of the real 2016 DMI P&L, which showed a loss of more than $600,000. Gates converted that .pdf into a "Word" document so that it could be edited, which Gates sent back to Manafort. Manafort altered that "Word" document by adding more than $3.5 million in income. He then sent this falsified P&L to Gates and asked that the "Word" document be converted back to a .pdf, which Gates did and returned to Manafort. Manafort then sent the falsified 2016 DMI P&L .pdf to Lender D.
So here's the essence of what went wrong for Manafort and Gates, according to Mueller's investigation: Manafort allegedly wanted to falsify his company's income, but he couldn't figure out how to edit the PDF.
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'I've Only Had Good Years' (businessinsider.com) 84

Business Insider: Under CEO Tim Cook's watch, Apple has sold hundreds of millions of iPhones, booked hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, and launched new products like AirPods and Apple Watch. In fact, Cook says, he's never had a bad year as CEO of Apple. "I've only had good years. No, seriously," he said in an interview with Fast Company. "Even when we were idling from a revenue point of view -- it was like $6 billion every year -- those were some incredibly good years because you could begin to feel the pipeline getting better, and you could see it internally. Externally, people couldn't see that," he continued.
Security

US's Greatest Vulnerability is Ignoring the Cyber Threats From Our Adversaries, Foreign Policy Expert Says (cnbc.com) 102

America's greatest vulnerability is its continued inability to acknowledge the extent of its adversaries' capabilities when it comes to cyber threats, says Ian Bremmer, founder and president of leading political risk firm Eurasia Group. From a report: Speaking to CNBC from the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, the prominent American political scientist emphasized that there should be much more government-level concern and urgency over cyber risk. The adversarial states in question are what U.S. intelligence agencies call the "big four": Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. "We're vulnerable because we continue to underestimate the capabilities in those countries. WannaCry, from North Korea -- no one in the U.S. cybersecurity services believed the North Koreans could actually do that," Bremmer described, naming the ransomware virus that crippled more than 200,000 computer systems across 150 countries in May of 2017.

Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, weighed in, stressing the economic cost of cyber crimes. "It is very hard to attribute cyberattacks to different actors or countries, but the cost is just unbelievable. Annually more than a thousand billion U.S. dollars are lost for companies or countries due to these attacks and our economy is more and more based on internet and data."

Youtube

YouTube Red is Having an Identity Crisis (digiday.com) 42

During an onstage conversation at Recode's Code Media this week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called YouTube Red a music streaming service -- first time any executive from the company has referred to YouTube Red as foremost a music service. From a report: This differs from comments that other YouTube executives have made in the past, including YouTube's head of global content Susanne Daniels, who last year described YouTube Red as a premium subscription streaming service that offers Hollywood-quality shows and movies.

Launched in October 2015, YouTube Red has always been positioned by YouTube as three services in one: It offers ad-free access to all of YouTube; it's a music streaming service that also gives access to Google Play Music; and it's consistently releasing original movies and TV shows, starring Hollywood talent and homegrown stars that users already subscribe to. Two years later, this has created somewhat of an identity crisis for the streaming service. As Wojcicki said in her interview, she sees YouTube Red as a music service. And she does not expect to spend billions of dollars on content to effectively compete with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others.

Facebook

Messenger Kids Advocates Were Facebook-Funded (fastcompany.com) 35

Fast Company: Facebook unveiled this kid-friendly version of its signature messaging service in December, while the YouTube Kids scandal was in full swing. Messenger Kids, Facebook said, had been designed to serve as a "fun, safer solution" for family communications. It would be available for children as young as 6, the company said. To forestall criticism, Facebook asserted that the app had been developed alongside thousands of parents and a dozen expert advisors. But it looks like many of those outside experts were funded with Facebook dollars. According to Wired, "At least seven members of Facebook 13-person advisory board have some kind of financial tie to the company." Those advisors include the National PTA, Blue Star Families, Connect Safely, and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
Facebook

YouTube CEO: Facebook Should 'Get Back To Baby Pictures' (cnet.com) 119

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki won't divulge her biggest fear about competing with Facebook, but she will give them some free advice. From a report: "They should get back to baby pictures," Wojcicki said Monday at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California. Video has been an obsession for Facebook, as it tries to swipe the most advertising dollars migrating off television before YouTube can get them. Facebook has been aggressively advancing the number of clips and live streams that bubble up to the top of your News Feed and has rolled out a central hub for TV-like programming called Watch. "You always have to take competition seriously. You don't win by looking backwards; you win by looking at your customers and looking forward," she said.
The Courts

Comcast Sues Vermont Over Conditions On New License Requiring the Company To Expand Its Network (vtdigger.org) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VTDigger: Cable television giant Comcast is suing the Vermont Public Utility Commission over the panel's decision to require the company to expand its network and step up support for community access TV if it wants to continue doing business in Vermont. A key issue is the services Comcast must provide to local community access systems that carry municipal government and school board meetings and other local events. The 26 community access systems have been pushing -- against resistance by Comcast -- for high-definition video, greater ability to operate from remote locations, and inclusion in the interactive program guides that Comcast customers can use to decide what to watch. The PUC -- formerly known as the Public Service Board -- in January issued a new 11-year permit for Comcast to operate in Vermont. In July the panel rejected the company's request to drop some of the conditions attached to the permit.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Comcast argued that the PUC "exceeded its authority under federal and Vermont law" by imposing "numerous conditions on Comcast's continued cable operations in the state that are arbitrary, unprecedented and will ultimately harm local cable subscribers by resulting in millions of dollars in increased cable costs." It said the commission "did so despite overwhelming record evidence that Vermont cable subscribers do not want to incur any additional costs or fees for the kinds of conditions imposed" in the commission's January order.

Government

Trump's New Infrastructure Plan Calls For Selling Off Two Airports (politico.com) 406

The Trump administration has released an infrastructure plan on Monday that proposes that the federal government considers selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. According to Trump's blueprint, the administration wants to allow federal agencies to divest assets if they "can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets." It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for "potential divesture." Politico reports: State and local agencies or the private sector may be better at managing assets currently owned by the federal government, the administration argues, and federal agencies should be able to "identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made." They should also "delineate how proceeds would be spent." Under the administration's proposal, federal agencies would have to complete an analysis demonstrating an "increase in value from divestiture." Though technically owned by the federal government, both airports are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority under a long-term lease agreement. The 53-page infrastructure plan lays out a vision to turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America's infrastructure by leveraging local and state dollars and private investment. "The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America's infrastructure," reports CNNMoney. "Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio. States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend."

As for how the money would be split up, the plan says that half of the new federal money, $100 billion, "would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities," reports CNNMoney. "An additional $20 billion would go toward 'projects of national significance' that can 'lift the American spirit,'" while another $50 billion will be designated "for rural block grants, most of which will be given to states according to a formula based on the miles of rural roads and the rural population they have," reports CNNMoney. "The rest of the money would support other infrastructure-related undertakings..."
Businesses

Nvidia Will Focus on Gaming Because Cryptocurrencies Are 'Volatile' (vice.com) 122

Graphics card manufacturer Nvidia made almost $10 billion dollars in the last fiscal year, that's up 41 percent from the previous period. The GPU company broke the news to its investors in a conference call on Thursday, and said that video games such as Star Wars: Battlefront II and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds as well as the unprecedented success of the Nintendo Switch led to the record profits. That and cryptocurrency. From a report: Graphics cards are the preferred engine of today's cryptocurrency miners. It's led to a shortage of the GPUs, a spike in their prices, and record profits for the company that manufactures them. "Strong demand in the cryptocurrency market exceeded our expectations," Nvidia chief financial officer Colette Kress told investors during its earnings call yesterday. "We met some of this demand with a dedicated board in our OEM business and some was met with our gaming GPUs." But Nvidia is having trouble keeping up with the demand and it's recommended retailers put gamers ahead of cryptocurrency miners while supply is limited. Kress acknowledged the shortage on the call and reaffirmed Nvidia's commitment to gamers. "While the overall contribution of cryptocurrency to our business remains hard to quantify, we believe it was a higher percentage of revenue than the prior quarter," she said. "That said, our main focus remains on our core gaming market as cryptocurrency trends will likely remain volatile." When Kress finished her statement and opened up the line to questions, the first question was about cryptocurrency. "Is crypto being modeled more conservatively?" An investor from Evercore asked. "We model crypto approximately flat," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's chief executive officer.

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