Facebook

Facebook CEO Says Not Planning To Extend European Privacy Law Globally (reuters.com) 84

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday that the social network had no immediate plans to apply a strict new European Union law on data privacy in its entirety to the rest of the world. The news comes as Facebook reels from a scandal over its handling of personal information of millions of its users. Reuters reports: Zuckerberg told Reuters in a phone interview that Facebook already complies with many parts of the law ahead of its implementation in May. He said the company wanted to extend privacy guarantees worldwide in spirit, but would make exceptions, which he declined to describe. His comments signals that U.S. Facebook users, many of them still angry over the company's handling of personal information, may soon find themselves in a worse position than Europeans. The European law, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted. Asked what parts of the EU law he would not extend worldwide, Zuckerberg said: "We're still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing." He did not elaborate.
The Courts

Uber Settles With Family of Woman Killed By Self-Driving Car, Avoids Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 124

It appears that Uber won't go to court to settle a lawsuit after one of its self-driving cars killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona earlier this month. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from Ars Technica: Uber has reached a settlement with the family of the woman killed by an Uber self-driving car. Uber reached the settlement with the daughter and husband of Elaine Herzberg, who died at age 49 after being hit by the Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. The settlement presumably includes a cash payment, but no details were provided by either Uber or the family's attorney. "The matter has been resolved," said Christina Perez Hesano, an attorney for Herzberg's family, according to reports by Reuters and NPR.
Businesses

Digg Reader To Shut Down This Month -- Latest RSS Service To Bite the Dust (betanews.com) 109

Digg announced this week that it's shutting down Digg Reader, an app which allows users to follow RSS feeds from sites. From a report: Following the closure of Google Reader, RSS fans flocked to the likes of Feedly, The Old Reader, Digg Reader and Inoreader. Now Digg Reader has announced that it is to close, and users are being advised to export their feeds so they can be imported into an alternative service. Users do not have a great deal of time to grab their data and take it elsewhere. The RSS reader is due to close on March 26, meaning there's less than two weeks to go. No reason has been given for the closure, but presumably the venture either didn't prove as popular as expected, or it was rather more costly to run than anticipated.
Microsoft

'Women At Microsoft Are Sexualized By Their Male Managers,' Lawsuit Alleges (arstechnica.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: According to a newly unsealed court filing, women at Microsoft who work in technical jobs filed 238 internal complaints pertaining to gender discrimination or sexual harassment from 2010 through 2016. The new document was first reported Monday evening by Reuters. The figures were revealed as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit originally filed in 2015 (Moussouris v. Microsoft). The female plaintiffs argue that the company's internal rating system discriminates against women and disfavors professional advancement for women.

As part of the class certification process and civil discovery, Microsoft handed over years of records to the plaintiffs' lawyers. In the Monday-released filing, which was originally submitted to the court in October 2017, Moussouris' lawyer, Michael Subit, wrote that "Microsoft's Culture is Rife with Sexual Harassment" before continuing: "Company records indicate that women at Microsoft are sexualized by their male managers and coworkers, leading to a substantial number of incidents of alleged sexual harassment, and even several incidents of sexual assault, that often go unpunished." Specifically, Subit continued, Microsoft's internal unit (known as "ERIT") received 108 complaints of sexual harassment filed by female US-based technical employees, 119 complaints of gender discrimination, eight complaints of retaliation, and three complaints of pregnancy discrimination. Out of all of the claimed instances of gender discrimination, Microsoft's internal investigation only found that one such complaint was "founded."

Communications

23 Attorneys General Refile Challenge To FCC Net Neutrality Repeal (engadget.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A coalition of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia on Thursday refiled legal challenges intended to block the Trump administration's repeal of landmark rules designed to ensure a free and open internet from taking effect. The Federal Communications Commission officially published its order overturning the net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday, a procedural step that allows for the filing of legal challenges. The states, along with web browser developer Mozilla and video-sharing website Vimeo, had filed petitions preserving their right to sue in January, but agreed to withdraw them last Friday and wait for the FCC's publication. The attorneys general argue that the FCC cannot make "arbitrary and capricious" changes to existing policies and that it misinterpreted and disregarded "critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses." The White House Office of Management and Budget still must sign off on some aspects of the FCC reversal before it takes legal effect. That could take months.
Youtube

YouTube Will Remove Ads, Downgrade Discoverability of Channels Posting Offensive Videos (techcrunch.com) 314

Earlier today, YouTube barred Logan Paul from serving ads on his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. Now, YouTube has announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it's prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers. TechCrunch reports: "We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next," Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, writes in a blog post.

The full list of steps, as outlined by YouTube:
1. Premium Monetization Programs, Promotion and Content Development Partnerships. We may remove a channel from Google Preferred and also suspend, cancel or remove a creator's YouTube Original.
2. Monetization and Creator Support Privileges. We may suspend a channel's ability to serve ads, ability to earn revenue and potentially remove a channel from the YouTube Partner Program, including creator support and access to our YouTube Spaces.
3. Video Recommendations. We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next.

The changes are significant not just because they could really hit creators where it hurts, but because they also point to a real shift for the platform. YouTube has long been known as a home for edgy videos filled with pranks and potentially offensive content, made in the name of comedy or freedom of expression. Now, the site is turning over a new leaf, using a large team of human curators and AI to track the content of what's being posted, and these videos have a much bigger chance of falling afoul of YouTube's rules and getting dinged.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Calls to Action on the Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Aaron Swartz (eff.org) 151

On the fifth anniversary of the death of Aaron Swartz, EFF activist Elliot Harmon posted a remembrance: When you look around the digital rights community, it's easy to find Aaron's fingerprints all over it. He and his organization Demand Progress worked closely with EFF to stop SOPA. Long before that, he played key roles in the development of RSS, RDF, and Creative Commons. He railed hard against the idea of government-funded scientific research being unavailable to the public, and his passion continues to motivate the open access community. Aaron inspired Lawrence Lessig to fight corruption in politics, eventually fueling Lessig's White House run... It's tempting to become pessimistic in the face of countless threats to free speech and privacy. But the story of the SOPA protests demonstrates that we can win in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
He shares a link to a video of Aaron's most inspiring talk, "How We Stopped SOPA," writing that "Aaron warned that SOPA wouldn't be the last time Hollywood attempted to use copyright law as an excuse to censor the Internet... 'The enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared... We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom. They threw themselves into it. They did whatever they could think of to do.'"

On the anniversary of Aaron's death, his brother Ben Swartz, an engineer at Twitch, wrote about his own efforts to effect change in ways that would've made Aaron proud, while Aaron's mother urged calls to Congress to continue pushing for reform to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

And there were countless other remembrances on Twitter, including one fro Cory Doctorow, who tweeted a link to Lawrence Lessig's analysis of the prosecution. And Lessig himself marked the anniversary with several posts on Twitter. "None should rest," reads one, "for still, there is no peace."
Mozilla

Mozilla Patches Critical Bug in Thunderbird (threatpost.com) 76

Mozilla has issued a critical security update to its popular open-source Thunderbird email client. From a report The patch was part of a December release of five fixes that included two bugs rated high and one rated moderate and another low. Mozilla said Thunderbird, which is also serves as a news, RSS and chat client, the latest Thunderbird 52.5.2 version released last week fixes the vulnerabilities. The most serious of the fixes is a critical buffer overflow bug (CVE-2017-7845) impacting Thunderbird running on Windows operating system. The bug is present when "drawing and validating elements with angle library using Direct 3D 9," according to the Mozilla Foundation Security Advisory. US-Cert said it encourages users and administrators to review the patch and apply the necessary update.
Biotech

Days Before Christmas, Theranos Secures $100 Million in New Funding (fortune.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Call it a Christmas miracle -- albeit of a rather perverse sort. Theranos, the digraced medical-technology startup that infamously inflated the capabilities of its devices, has secured $100 million in new funding in the form of a loan. The loan, reported by the Wall Street Journal, will come from Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, whose other underdog bets include a private passenger rail line under construction in Florida, is set to be acquired by Japan's SoftBank. Theranos was reportedly on the verge of bankrutpcy...

By the end of 2016, the company reportedly still had $200 million in cash on hand, but had sharply limited prospects for attracting more capital. It has since settled a major lawsuit with Walgreens, a former client, for an undisclosed but likely substantial sum. According to the Journal, the Fortress loan is expected to keep Theranos solvent through 2018. That will give the company more time for its ongoing effort to reboot as a medical device manufacturer, rather than a testing service.

The loan is conditional on "achieving certain product and operational milestones," notes Fortune, adding "It's unclear whether those might include positive outcomes for the multiple investigations and lawsuits still facing the company."
Android

Google Says 64 Percent of Chrome Traffic On Android Now Protected With HTTPS, 75 Percent On Mac, 66 Percent On Windows (techcrunch.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Google's push to make the web more secure by flagging sites using insecure HTTP connections appears to be working. The company announced today that 64 percent of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, up 42 percent from a year ago. In addition, over 75 percent of Chrome traffic on both ChromeOS and Mac is now protected, up from 60 percent on Mac and 67 percent on ChromeOS a year ago. Windows traffic is up to 66 percent from 51 percent. Google also notes that 71 of the top 100 websites now use HTTPS by default, up from 37 percent a year ago. In the U.S., HTTPS usage in Chrome is up from 59 percent to 73 percent. Combined, these metrics paint a picture of fairly rapid progress in the switchover to HTTPS. This is something that Google has been heavily pushing by flagging and pressuring sites that hadn't yet adopted HTTPS.
Security

Equifax Says 2.5 Million More Americans May Be Affected By Hack (reuters.com) 78

According to Reuters, Equifax said about 2.5 million additional U.S. consumers may have been impacted by a cyber attack at the company last month. Last month, the company disclosed that personal details of up to 143 million U.S. consumers were accessed by hackers between mid-May and July.

As for what led to the breach, Ars Technica reports it was "a series of costly delays and crucial errors." From the report: Chief among the failures: an Equifax e-mail directing administrators to patch a critical vulnerability in the open source Apache Struts Web application framework went unheeded, despite a two-day deadline to comply. Equifax also waited a week to scan its network for apps that remained vulnerable. Even then, the delayed scan failed to detect that the code-execution flaw still resided in a section of the sprawling Equifax site that allows consumers to dispute information they believe is incorrect. Equifax said last month that the still-unidentified attackers gained an initial hold in the network by exploiting the critical Apache Struts vulnerability.
Transportation

Is the World Ready For Flying Cars? (engadget.com) 251

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: "Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so." From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, Thrun talked a lot about flying cars and how that was the future of transportation. So did GGV's Jenny Lee, a prolific investor in China. And so did Steve Jurvetson, one of the original investors in SpaceX. The technical backbone for flying cars seems to be there already -- with drones becoming ever-present and advancements in AI and self-driving cars -- but the time is coming soon that flying cars will be the primary mode of transportation. "I can't envision a future of highways [and being] stuck in cars," Thrun said. "I envision a [future] where you hop in a thing, go in the air, and fly in a straight line. I envision a future where Amazon delivers my food in the air in five minutes. The air is so free of stuff and is so unused compared to the ground, it has to happen in my opinion."

Cars today are forced to move on a two-dimensional plane (ramps, clover intersections and tunnels set aside), and while self-driving cars would make it easier for cars to talk to each other and move more efficiently, adding a third dimension to travel would make a lot of sense coming next. Thrun pointed to airplane transit, which is already a "fundamentally great mass transit system." Jurvetson said he was actually about to ride in a flying car before he "watched it flip over" before arriving to talk about some of the next steps in technology onstage. So, there's work to be done there, but it does certainly seem that all eyes are on flying cars. And that'll be enabled by autonomous driving, which will probably allow flying cars to figure out the most efficient paths from one point to the next without crashing into each other.
Lee said that China is closely analyzing changes in transportation, which might end up leading to flying cars. "I do want to highlight that there's going to be huge disruption within the transportation ecosystem in China," Lee said. "Cars going from diesel to electric. China has about 200 million install base of car ownership. In 2016, only 1 million cars are electric. The Chinese government hopes to install 5 million parking lots that are electric... Even the Chinese OEMs are buying into flying taxis."
Facebook

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (gizmodo.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes -- not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything. In our age of information overload that might seem like a bad idea, but RSS also cuts out everything you don't want to hear about. You're in full control of what's in your feed and what isn't, so you don't get friends and colleagues throwing links into your feeds that you've got no interest in reading. Perhaps most importantly, you don't need to be constantly online and constantly refreshing your feeds to make sure you don't miss anything. It's like putting a recording schedule in place for the shows you know you definitely want to catch rather than flicking through the channels hoping you land on something interesting. There's no rush with RSS -- you don't miss out on a day's worth of news, or TV recaps, or game reviews if you're offline for 24 hours. It's all waiting for you when you get back. And if you're on holiday and the unread article count starts to get scarily high, just hit the mark all as read button and you're back to a clean slate.
Twitter

Twitter is Just Randomly Deleting People's Lists -- and No One Knows Why (theregister.co.uk) 115

Twitter has silently, and without warning, deleted reams of lists users have spent months curating. These lists are used by journalists, activists, and loads of other people, to organize and manage twits they follow and aggregate their tweets, links, photos, and videos, reports The Register. From the article: They are, in a way, personalized RSS feeds of information from the Twitter firehose. For the past several days, though, lists have been disappearing from folks' profiles with no notification, and no explanation from Twitter thus far. Some private, or locked, lists have been made public. Among those impacted by the cockup is Australian freelance journalist and Cryptoparty founder Asher Wolf, who said the issue appears to be tied those who use the mobile Twitter App. Switching to different platforms doesn't help, however.
Businesses

German Company Building An Electric 'Air Taxi' Makes Key Hires From Gett, Airbus and Tesla (techcrunch.com) 74

Lilium, the Germany company known for building an electric "air taxi," is announcing a number of key hires from notable companies in the transportation space. While the company is still in its early days, it is ambitiously striving to make flying cars a reality. Back in April, the company launched its first public (and successful) test flight in Germany. TechCrunch reports: [The key hires] are Dr Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joins Lilium as Chief Commercial Officer; Dirk Gebser, who takes up the position of VP of Production and previously held manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, who joined Lilium as Head of Recruitment in February and was formerly Tesla's Head of Talent EMEA. In a call with Gerber, he told me he was "super happy" to be joining the German startup, noting that there are very few companies in Europe with the same level of ambition. "It is definitely the most fascinating job I could have ever imagined," he says, audibly excited. "I've done quite a few things in my time and I've seen quite a few companies but never anything even remotely like that." To add a little color, Gerber pointed out that his training is in physics ("a long time ago") and that his grandfather was a pilot in World War II, and his uncle also a pilot. This, and the first time he saw the Lilium jet fly, made the opportunity to join a startup building a new kind of air travel "irresistible."
Businesses

Trademarks Shows Amazon Has Sights On Meal-Kits, 'Single Cow Burgers' and Other Fast Food Options (techcrunch.com) 75

The latest business Amazon may expand into is the business of meal-kits. According to TechCrunch, Amazon recently filed a trademark (serial number 87517760) for "We do the prep. You be the chef," which relates to a meal-kit service similar to the kind offered by Blue Apron and others. From the report: Amazon describes the service simply: "Prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or and vegetables and also including sauces or seasonings, ready for cooking and assembly as a meal; Frozen, prepared, and packaged meals consisting of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or vegetables; fruit salads and vegetable salads; soups and preparations for making soups." It turns out that, in fact, company in the last seven months had registered at least two other trademarks for slightly shorter versions of the same meal kit concept. Respectively, serial numbers 87418923 and 87256976 for "We prep. You cook" and "No-line meal kits," also relate to food-kit services along with marketing related to them. Amazon also has been quietly developing its own lines of pre-made food aimed at people searching for more quality ingredients. The company has, for example, around 10 trademarks filed related to the phrase "single cow burger."
Communications

41 Percent of Adults In the US Have Been Harassed Online, Says Pew Study (techcrunch.com) 242

According to a new Pew Research Center study, 41 percent of adults said they have experienced harassment online, and 66 percent of people said they've seen it happen to others. What's the most common form of online harassment? According to the study, it's offensive name-calling. TechCrunch reports: It's worth noting that while men are slightly more likely than women to be harassed online (44 percent versus 37 percent), women are more likely to be sexually harassed online. For example, 53 percent of women surveyed reported receiving explicit images they did not request. Unsurprisingly, social media is where people are most likely to experience online harassment, with 58 percent of those harassed saying the most recent incident happened on a social media platform. Also unsurprising is the fact that more than half of people harassed don't know the person harassing them. Pew also explored "emergent" forms of online harassment, like doxing (posting someone's personal information online without consent), trolling (intentionally trying to provoke or upset someone), hacking (illegally accessing someone's accounts) and swatting (when you call 911 for a fake emergency and have the police show up at that person's house). "While many Americans are not aware of these behaviors, they have all been used to escalate abuse online," the report states.
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 85

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
News

Podcast App Breaker Adds Support For JSON Feed, Believes the RSS Alternative Could Benefit Podcast Ecosystem (medium.com) 57

Erik Michaels-Ober, the creator of popular podcast app Breaker: The decentralized structure of podcasts creates a chicken-and-egg problem for JSON Feed to gain adoption. There's no incentive for podcasters to publish in JSON Feed as long as podcast players don't support it. And there's no incentive for podcast players to support JSON Feed as long as podcasters don't publish in that format. Breaker is hoping to break that stalemate by adding support for JSON Feed in our latest release. As far as we know, Breaker is the first podcast player to do so. Unlike other features that differentiate Breaker, we encourage our competitors to follow our lead in this area. The sooner all podcast players support JSON Feed, the better positioned the entire podcast ecosystem will be for the decades to come. JSON is more compact than XML, making it faster for computers to transfer and parse, while making it easier for humans to read and write. Updating Breaker to support JSON Feed was fun and easy. It took us less than a day from when we started working on it to when the change was submitted to the App Store. Update: Julian Lepinski, creator of Cast (an app that offers the ability to record, edit, publish and host podcast files), announced on Tuesday: Like a lot of software, much of Cast's internal data is stored in JSON, and publishing JSON data directly would be pretty straightforward as a result. So I sunk my teeth in, and in about half a day I'd added experimental JSON Feed support to podcasts published with Cast.
IT

JSON Feed Announced As Alternative To RSS (jsonfeed.org) 201

Reader Anubis IV writes: With Slashdot recently asking whether we still use RSS, it may come as a surprise that something interesting has happened in the world of news feeds this week. JSON Feed was launched as an alternative to RSS and Atom, eschewing the XML they rely on -- which is frequently malformed and difficult to parse -- in favor of a human readable JSON format that reflects the decades of combined experience its authors have in the field. The JSON Feed spec is a simple read that lays out a number of pragmatic benefits the format has over RSS and Atom, such as eliminating duplicate entries, adding the ability to paginate feeds so that old entries remain available, and reducing the need for clients to scrape sites to find images and other resources. Given that it's authored by the developers behind one of the earliest, popular RSS clients and a recently Kickstarted blogging platform, the format is intended to address the common pain points currently faced by developers when producing and parsing feeds.

While it remains to be seen whether JSON Feed will escape the chicken-and-egg stage of adoption, several clients have already added support for the fledging format in the week since its announcement, including Feedbin, Inoreader, and NewsBlur.

Slashdot Top Deals