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The Internet

Gmail Proves That Some People Hate Smart Suggestions (techcrunch.com) 85

Citing a number of complaints following Google's Gmail makeover, TechCrunch's Romain Dillet makes the case for why some users don't want smart suggestions in the email service: There's a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don't want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter. A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That's why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing. But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking.

VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google's order.

Google

Diversity At Google Hasn't Changed Much Over the Last Year (cnet.com) 171

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

"Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

The Almighty Buck

Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments (appleinsider.com) 40

Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited."

The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

Open Source

Why OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority for the Open Source Community (linuxjournal.com) 112

"Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software," argues Glyn Moody, author of Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution, in a new Linux Journal article shared by long-time Slashdot reader carlie: The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement. Many internet services now offer additional features based on where users are, where they are going and their relative position to other members of social networks. Self-driving cars and drones are two rapidly evolving hardware areas where accurate geographical information is crucial. All of those things depend upon a map in critical ways, and they require large, detailed datasets. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global open alternative to better-known, and much better-funded geodata holdings, such as Google Maps.

The current dominance of the latter is a serious problem for free software -- and freedom itself. The data that lies behind Google Maps is proprietary. Thus, any open-source program that uses Google Maps or other commercial mapping services is effectively including proprietary elements in its code. For purists, that is unacceptable in itself. But even for those with a more pragmatic viewpoint, it means that open source is dependent on a company for data that can be restricted or withdrawn at any moment....

Although undoubtedly difficult, creating high-quality map-based services is a challenge that must be tackled by the Open Source community if it wants to remain relevant in a world dominated by mobile computing. The bad news is that at the moment, millions of people are happily sending crucial geodata to proprietary services like Waze, as well as providing free bug-fixes for Google Maps. Far better if they could be working with equal enthusiasm and enjoyment on open projects, since the resulting datasets would be freely available to all, not turned into corporate property. The good news is that OpenStreetMap provides exactly the right foundation for creating those open map-based services, which is why supporting it must become a priority for the Open Source world.

Crime

Two Teenaged Gamers Plead 'Not Guilty' For Fatal Kansas Swatting Death (reuters.com) 142

Two more men entered pleas in federal court for their roles in a SWAT call that led to a fatal police shooting in Kansas: not guilty. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, Kansas, and Casey Viner, 18, from a suburb of Cincinnati, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and remained free on $10,000 bond, court records showed. Both of the suspects live with their parents, local media reported. In the so-called "swatting" incident, in which someone falsely reports an emergency requiring a police response, Viner got upset at Gaskill over a video game they played online, federal prosecutors said, and Viner contacted a known "swatter"...and asked him to make the false report to police at an address that had been provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that Gaskill no longer lived at the address, but Gaskill knew, prosecutors said.

After media reports of the shooting, Gaskill urged [swatter Tyler] Barriss to delete their communications and Viner wiped his phone, according to the indictment... Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud. Viner and Gaskill were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Gaskill was also charged with wire fraud and additional counts of obstruction of justice.

In a jailhouse interview in January, Barriss told a local news team that "Whether you hang me from a tree, or you give me 5, 10, 15 years... I don't think it will ever justify what happened... I hope no one ever does it, ever again. I hope it's something that ceases to exist."

In April, while still in jail, Barriss gained access to the internet then posted "All right, now who was talking shit? >:) Your ass is about to get swatted."
Security

17 Backdoored Images Downloaded 5 Million Times Removed From Docker Hub (bleepingcomputer.com) 35

An anonymous reader writes: "The Docker team has pulled 17 Docker container images that have been backdoored and used to install reverse shells and cryptocurrency miners on users' servers for the past year," reports Bleeping Computer. "The malicious Docker container images have been uploaded on Docker Hub, the official repository of ready-made Docker images that sysadmins can pull and use on their servers, work, or personal computers." The images, downloaded over 5 million times, helped crooks mine Monero worth over $90,000 at today's exchange rate. Docker Hub is now just the latest package repository to feature backdoored libraries, after npm and PyPl. Docker Hub is now facing criticism for taking months to intervene after user reports, and then going on stage at a developer conference and claiming they care about security.
Communications

Guy Robs Someone At Gunpoint For Domain Name, Gets 20 Years In Jail (vice.com) 133

Yesterday, 43-year-old Iowa man Sherman Hopkins Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to rob a domain name from another man at gunpoint in 2017. As Motherboard reports, "this may be the first time someone has attempted to steal a domain name at gunpoint." From the report: Last June, Hopkins broke into the home of 26 year-old Ethan Deyo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa one afternoon and demanded that Deyo to log on to his computer to transfer the domain name for "doitforstate.com" to another account. According to Deyo's bio on his personal website, he is a web entrepreneur who previously worked for the web hosting service GoDaddy. After seeing Hopkins enter the apartment, Deyo locked himself into his room and Hopkins kicked in the door. Hopkins kicked in the door and "pistol-whipped" Deyo, held a gun to his head and used a stun gun on him during the encounter. While he attempted to wrestle the gun away from Hopkins, Deyo was shot in the leg, but he eventually gained control of the firearm and shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest. It's unclear why Hopkins wanted the domain name or who he was transferring the domain name to.
Businesses

The Most Remote Island in the World is Home to Seals, Seabirds, and an Internet Top-Level Domain (ieee.org) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bouvet Island has little to offer. The most remote island in the world is fewer than 20 square miles in size, and it's almost entirely covered by a glacier. Long ago, it was an active volcano, but those fiery days have long since passed. Now, it's home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, a Norwegian research station, and its own top-level internet domain.

Top-level domains serve as part of the Internet's architecture. Aside from generic domains like .com and .edu, every country has a specific two-letter domain assigned to it. The United Kingdom, for example, uses .uk; Japan uses .jp. The United States has .us, though it's not widely used. The original idea was that each country could manage the websites registered by individuals and organizations within its borders by issuing them websites that use their country-specific domain.

But here's the weird thing about Bouvet Island having its own top-level domain: It's uninhabited. It's always been uninhabited. Located in the southern Atlantic, the closest land to Bouvet Island is the coast of Antarctica, 1,100 miles to the south. The closest inhabited land is the island Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory located 1,400 miles to the north (Interestingly enough, Tristan da Cunha does not have its own top-level domain).

The Internet

South Africans in Cape Town and Johannesburg Pay Much More For Internet Usage Than New Yorkers (qz.com) 58

South Africa may have some of the world's cheapest cities to live in, but using the internet in Cape Town and Johannesburg is surprisingly expensive by global standards. From a report: South Africans living in the country's two major cities spend more on their monthly internet costs than people living in New York, Tokyo, and even the perennially expensive Zurich, according to a report by Deutsche Bank. When comparing life in the global financial capitals, most other things, from rent to the cost of a cappuccino, were far cheaper in Johannesburg and Cape Town, making the cost of getting online even more of a shock to the pocket. Out of 50 cities surveyed, Joburgers spent the second most on monthly internet, beaten only by oil-rich Dubai. The amount shelled out by Capetonians ranked seventh behind Dublin, San Francisco, and Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, according to the report, which compared daily prices and living standards of cities around the world.
Communications

Comcast Says It Isn't Throttling Heavy Internet Users Anymore (cnet.com) 175

Comcast, which has been throttling speeds to slow down heavy internet users since 2008, has had a change of heart. From a report: Comcast has deactivated this "congestion management" system, according to an announcement this week. "As reflected in a June 11, 2018 update to our XFINITY Internet Broadband Disclosures, the congestion management system that was initially deployed in 2008 has been deactivated. As our network technologies and usage of the network continue to evolve, we reserve the right to implement a new congestion management system if necessary in the performance of reasonable network management and in order to maintain a good broadband Internet access service experience for our customers, and will provide updates here as well as other locations if a new system is implemented."
China

China's Surveillance State Will Soon Track Cars (wsj.com) 113

China is establishing an electronic identification system to track cars nationwide, according to a report on WSJ, which cites records and people briefed on the matter. From a report: Under the plan being rolled out July 1, a radio-frequency identification chip for vehicle tracking will be installed on cars when they are registered. Compliance will be voluntary this year but will be made mandatory for new vehicles at the start of 2019, the people said. Authorities have described the plan as a means to improve public security and to help ease worsening traffic congestion, documents show, a major concern in many Chinese cities partly because clogged roads contribute to air pollution. But such a system, implemented in the world's biggest automotive market, with sales of nearly 30 million vehicles a year, will also vastly expand China's surveillance network, experts say. That network already includes widespread use of security cameras, facial recognition technology and internet monitoring.
Social Networks

Turkey Bans Periscope (stockholmcf.org) 87

stikves writes: According to online reports, a recent court order has banned Periscope across Turkey. The cited reason is the alleged violation of copyrights of a local company named "Periskop." This adds to the list of online services no longer available in Turkey, including Wikipedia, PayPal and WordPress, among others. While access from Turkey to the domain periscope.tv and to the Twitter account "periscopeco" is banned, users can still access Periscope services under the name Scope TR and Twitter account "scopetr." Lawyers from Twitter, Apple and Google requested rejection of the case, "saying it was impossible for a company like Twitter, operating in the U.S., to be aware of the existence of the same brand name in Turkey," reports Stockholm Center for Freedom.
The Internet

'Netflix and Alphabet Will Need To Become ISPs, Fast' (techcrunch.com) 326

Following the recent official repeal of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, an anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Danny Crichton. Crichton discusses the options Alphabet, Netflix and other video streaming services have on how to respond: For Alphabet, that will likely mean a redoubling of its commitment to Google Fiber. That service has been trumpeted since its debut, but has faced cutbacks in recent years in order to scale back its original ambitions. That has meant that cities like Atlanta, which have held out for the promise of cheap and reliable gigabit bandwidth, have been left in something of a lurch. Ultimately, Alphabet's strategic advantage against Comcast, AT&T and other massive ISPs is going to rest on a sort of mutually assured destruction. If Comcast throttles YouTube, then Alphabet can propose launching in a critical (read: lucrative) Comcast market. Further investment in Fiber, Project Fi or perhaps a 5G-centered wireless strategy will be required to give it to the leverage to bring those negotiations to a better outcome.

For Netflix, it is going to have to get into the connectivity game one way or the other. Contracts with carriers like Comcast and AT&T are going to be more challenging to negotiate in light of today's ruling and the additional power they have over throttling. Netflix does have some must-see shows, which gives it a bit of leverage, but so do the ISPs. They are going to have to do an end-run around the distributors to give them similar leverage to what Alphabet has up its sleeve. One interesting dynamic I could see forthcoming would be Alphabet creating strategic partnerships with companies like Netflix, Twitch and others to negotiate as a collective against ISPs. While all these services are at some level competitors, they also face an existential threat from these new, vertically merged ISPs. That might be the best of all worlds given the shit sandwich we have all been handed this week.

Advertising

Facebook May Ban Bad Businesses From Advertising (theverge.com) 111

Facebook will now let you file a complaint about businesses you've had a problem with if you bought something after clicking on one of their ads. If enough people complain about a business, it could lead to Facebook banning the company from running ads. The Verge reports: The new policy is rolling out globally starting today, and it's meant to help Facebook fight back against another type of advertising abuse on its platform. Facebook says it's trying to combat "bad shopping experiences," which can cost customers and make them frustrated with Facebook, too. Facebook is particularly interested in a few problem areas: shipping times, product quality, and customer service. This isn't just a matter of misleading advertising: if a company regularly provides bad service, products that don't meet buyers' expectations, or just frustrates consumers, they risk getting in trouble with the platform.

It appears that Facebook will send notifications to users to ask about their experience if it detects that they've purchased something after clicking on an ad. You'll also be able to find those companies and leave feedback on the Ads Activity page. Facebook says it will inform businesses about negative feedback and try to pinpoint problems that a large number of customers are having. If customer feedback doesn't improve after a warning, Facebook will eventually start to limit how many ads a company can run. If it continues long enough, they can be banned.

Television

The Internet Is Finally Going To Be Bigger Than TV Worldwide (qz.com) 60

According to estimates from media agency Zenith, next year, for the first time, people will spend more time using the internet than watching TV. People will spend an average of 170.6 minutes a day, or nearly three hours, using the internet in 2019. That's a tad more than the 170.3 minutes they're expected to spend watching TV. Quartz reports: Zenith measured media by how they are transmitted or distributed, such as broadcasts via TV signals and newspapers in print. Watching videos on the web through platforms like Netflix and YouTube, or reading a newspaper's website, counted as internet consumption. Nearly one-quarter of all media consumption across the globe will be through mobile this year, up from 5% in 2011. The average person will spend a total of about eight hours per day consuming media in its many forms this year, Zenith forecasts.

In some parts of the world, TV will remain on top -- for now. Zenith forecasted media consumption through 2020 and did not expect the internet to overtake TV in Europe, Latin America, and the whole of North America in that time. In the U.S., it was projected to surpass TV in the U.S. in two years.

EU

Internet Luminaries Urge EU To Kill Off Automated Copyright Filter Proposal (theregister.co.uk) 40

A large group of Internet pioneers have sent an open letter to the European Union urging it to scrap a proposal to introduce automated upload filters, arguing that it could damage the internet as we know it. The Register: The European Parliament's Legal Affairs (Juri) Committee will vote on the proposal contained in Article 13 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive next week. The proposal would see all companies that "store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works" obliged to "prevent the availability... of works... identified by rightholders." Despite the inclusion of language that says such measures need to be "appropriate and proportionate," it has caused many to worry that the law will lead to a requirement for all platforms to introduce automated content filtering, and shift liability for any copyrighted material that appears online from the user that posts it to the platform itself.

"By inverting this liability model and essentially making platforms directly responsible for ensuring the legality of content in the first instance, the business models and investments of platforms large and small will be impacted," warns the letter [PDF] signed by "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf, world world web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, as well a host of other internet luminaries including Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, security expert Bruce Schneier and net neutrality namer Tim Wu.

Businesses

Vietnam Lawmakers Approve Cyber Law Clamping Down on Tech Firms, Dissent (reuters.com) 46

Vietnamese legislators approved a cybersecurity law on Tuesday that tightens control of the internet and global tech companies operating in the Communist-led country, raising fears of economic harm and a further crackdown on dissent. From a report: The cyber law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, requires Facebook, Google and other global technology firms to store locally "important" personal data on users in Vietnam and open offices there. The vote in the National Assembly came a day after lawmakers delayed a decision on another controversial bill that had sparked violent protests in parts of the country on the weekend. Thousands of demonstrators in cities and provinces had denounced a plan to create new economic zones for foreign investment that has fueled anti-Chinese sentiment. Some protesters had also derided the cybersecurity bill, which experts and activists say could cause economic harm and stifle online dissent.
Businesses

FBI Recovers $14M From Bogus Business Account Wire Transfers (arstechnica.com) 17

Federal authorities announced Monday that they had "disrupted" what they call "Business Email Compromise" schemes, which involve a malicious actor sending a phishing email and somehow convincing employees with access to a company's financial credentials to transfer money fraudulently. From a report: The FBI added that $2.4 million dollars was seized, while $14 million in "fraudulent wire transfers" was recovered. Seventy-four people were arrested worldwide, including 42 in the United States, 29 in Nigeria, and three others in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland. "Fraudsters can rob people of their life's savings in a matter of minutes," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "These are malicious and morally repugnant crimes. The Department of Justice has taken aggressive action against fraudsters in recent months, conducting the largest sweep of fraud against American seniors in history back in February." The Department of Justice did not immediately provide a full list of those arrested, or the criminal complaints, but it said that, "since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began formally keeping track of BEC and its variant, email account compromise (EAC), there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3."
Censorship

Tanzania Orders All Unregistered Bloggers To Take Down Their Sites (reuters.com) 52

The state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered all unregistered bloggers and online forums on Monday to suspend their websites immediately or face criminal prosecution. Several sites, including popular online discussion platform Jamiiforums, have reportedly shut down to avoid prosecution. Reuters reports: Regulations passed in March made it compulsory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as YouTube channels to register with the government and pay up to $900 for a license. Per capita income in Tanzania is slightly below $900 a year. Digital activists say the law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015. Government officials argue the new rules are aimed at tackling hate speech and other online crimes, including cyberbullying and pornography.

"All unregistered online content providers must be licensed before June 15. Starting from today June 11 until June 15, they are prohibited from posting any new content on their blogs, forums or online radios and televisions," the regulator said in a statement on Monday. The statement said legal action would be taken against any unregistered websites posting new content. Anyone convicted of defying the new regulations faces a fine of at least 5 million shillings ($2,200), imprisonment for a minimum 12 months, or both.

Television

Next Year, People Will Spend More Time Online Than They Will Watching TV. That's a First. (recode.net) 74

Rani Molla, writing for Recode: It's finally happening: Next year, people around the world will spend more time online than they do watching TV, according to new data from measurement company Zenith. In 2019, people are expected to spend an average of 170.6 minutes each day on online activities like watching videos on YouTube, sharing photos on Facebook and shopping on Amazon. They'll spend slightly less time -- 170.3 minutes -- watching TV. The global transition from TV to internet as the main entertainment medium was a long time coming, but it also happened faster than expected. Last year, Zenith predicted that TV would still be more popular in 2019 but has since revised its estimates.

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