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Zero-Rating Harms Poor People, Public Interest Groups Tell FCC (vice.com) 205

An anonymous reader links to an article on Motherboard: The nation's largest internet service providers are undermining US open internet rules, threatening free speech, and disproportionately harming poor people by using a controversial industry practice called "zero-rating," a coalition of public interest groups wrote in a letter to federal regulators on Monday. Companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T use zero-rating, which refers to a variety of practices that exempt certain services from monthly data caps, to undercut "the spirit and the text" of federal rules designed to protect net neutrality, the principle that all content on the internet should be equally accessible, the groups wrote. Zero-rated plans "distort competition, thwart innovation, threaten free speech, and restrict consumer choice -- all harms the rules were meant to prevent," the groups wrote. "These harms tend to fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, who tend to rely on mobile networks as their primary or exclusive means of access to the internet."

UK Man Faces Prison For Circumventing UK's Pirate Site Blockade (torrentfreak.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes with news from TorrenFreak that a Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit in the UK has charged a man for operating proxy sites and services that let fellow Internet users in the UK bypass local pirate site blockades. In a first of its kind prosecution, the Bakersfield resident is charged with several fraud offenses and one count of converting and/or transferring criminal property. During the summer of 2014, City of London Police arrested the then 20-year-old Callum Haywood of Bakersfield for his involvement with several proxy sites and services. Haywood was interrogated at a police station and later released on bail. He agreed to voluntarily hand over several domain names, but the police meanwhile continued working on the case. I wonder if the same logic applies to customers of the shrinking number of VPNs that can be used to bypass other kinds of country-level controls.

D.C. Regulators Approve Exelon's $7 Billion Takeover Of Pepco (washingtonpost.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from WashingtonPost: District regulators approved a $6.8 billion merger between Pepco Holdings and Exelon on Wednesday, creating the largest publicly-held utility in the country. The merger means that Pepco will now be absorbed by a company with the largest number of nuclear reactors in the country and widespread operations throughout the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and New England. In voting 2 to 1 to approve the deal, the D.C. Public Service Commission said it "was in the public interest," noting that it would deposit $72.8 million in a "customer investment fund," set aside $11.25 million for energy efficiency and conservation programs targeted toward low-income residents, and carve out $21.55 million for pilot projects such as modernizing the electric distribution grid. "These benefits, among others, would not be available to District ratepayers if the merger is not approved," the commission said in a statement.

Australia Promises To Remove Tax On Bitcoin, Support FinTech Innovation (thestack.com) 31

An anonymous reader writes: The Australian government has announced that Bitcoin and other digital currencies would no longer be subject to Goods and Services Tax, and regulations would become more lenient to support startups and entrepreneurs in the country. Treasurer Scott Morrison noted in a detailed policy statement that various new law proposals would see GST removed on Bitcoin, restrictions and tax barriers eased for venture capital investors, and a stronger focus on crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. The release detailed that reform in the area is crucial to 'assist Australia becoming a leading market for FinTech innovation in Asia.'

FTC Warns Android App Developers About Use of Audio-Tracking Code 81

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: The Federal Trade Commission is warning dozens of developers about some code they've included in their apps that can surreptitiously listen to unique audio signals from TVs in the background and build detailed profiles of what consumers are watching. The technology, produced by a company called SilverPush, is used to track users across devices and the FTC warned the developers that if they don't disclose the use of the code to consumers, they could be violating the FTC Act. The commission sent the letter to 12 app developers whose apps are in the Google Play Store, and warned them that not disclosing the use of SilverPush's Unique Audio Beacon could be a problem. "For example, the code is configured to access the device's microphone to collect audio information even when the application is not in use. Moreover, your application requires permission to access the mobile device's microphone prior to install, despite no evident functionality in the application that would require such access," the letter says.

Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Others To Beef Up Encryption (thestack.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes: Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Whatsapp and Snapchat are looking to increase the privacy of user data by expanding their encryption features. The recent reports mark growing industry support for Apple in its fight to not allow authorities backdoor access into users' devices. Facebook has suggested that it is increasing privacy of its Messenger service, while its instant messaging app Whatsapp also confirmed that it would be extending its encryption offering to secure voice calls. Others reportedly joining the industry shift include Snapchat, which is working on securing its messaging service, and search heavyweight Google, which is currently developing an encrypted email project. From The Guardian's substantially similar story from which the above-linked article draws: WhatsApp has been rolling out strong encryption to portions of its users since 2014, making it increasingly difficult for authorities to tap the service's messages. The issue is personal for founder Jan Koum, who was born in Soviet-era Ukraine. When Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in February that his company would fight the government in court, Koum posted on his Facebook account: "Our freedom and our liberty are at stake." His efforts to go further still are striking as the app is in open confrontation with governments. Brazil authorities arrested a Facebook executive on 1 March after WhatsApp told investigators it lacked the technical ability to provide the messages of drug traffickers. Facebook called the arrest "extreme and disproportionate." The sooner, the better on this front: as TechDirt points out, WhatsApp may be next on the list of communication tools to which the U.S. government would like to give the Apple Treatment.

China Criticizes Subsidized Ride-Hailing Apps As Anti-Competitive (thestack.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: China's minister of transport Yang Chuantang has warned that the current round of ferocious price-wars among China's leading ride-sharing app providers, including Didi Dache and Uber, represents an attempt to kill local competition with massively-subsidized price cuts that will not subsequently be sustained. Chuantang, speaking at the annual national assembly in Beijing, said that the subsidies "are aimed at occupying more market share within the short term and is competitively unfair for the taxi industry. It is unhealthy and cannot be sustained in the long term." Uber is currently investing (or, arguably, losing) $1 billion a year in its attempts to consolidate a place in the Chinese ride-sharing market.

The Case Against Ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership (michaelgeist.ca) 177

An anonymous reader writes: For the past two and a half months, Canadian law professor Michael Geist has been writing a daily series on the trouble with the Trans Pacific Partnership. The 50 part series wrapped up today with the case against ratifying the TPP. While the focus is on Canadian issues, the series hits on problems that all 12 countries face: unbalanced intellectual property rules, privacy risks, dangers to the Internet and technology, cultural and health regulation, and investor-state settlement rules that could cost countries billions of dollars.

Wi-Fi Hotspot Blocking Persists Despite FCC Crackdown (networkworld.com) 85

An anonymous reader writes: An examination of consumer complaints to the FCC over the past year and a half shows that the practice of Wi-Fi hotspot device blocking continues even though the agency has slapped organizations such as Marriott and Hilton more than $2 million in total for doing this. Venues argue they need to block hotspots for security reasons, but the FCC and consumers say the organizations are doing this to force people to pay for pricey Internet access.
"Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center," FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. "It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel's own Wi-Fi network. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether." Consumers have filed many complaints about Wi-Fi hotspot blocking to the FCC.
Open Source

TP-Link Blocks Open Source Router Firmware To Comply With FCC Rules 36

An anonymous reader points to an official announcement made by TP-Link, which confirms a report from last month that it is blocking open source firmware: The FCC requires all manufacturers to prevent users from having any direct ability to change RF parameters (frequency limits, output power, country codes, etc.) In order to keep our products compliant with these implemented regulations, TP-LINK is distributing devices that feature country-specific firmware. Devices sold in the United States will have firmware and wireless settings that ensure compliance with local laws and regulations related to transmission power. As a result of these necessary changes, users are not able to flash the current generation of open-source, third-party firmware. We are excited to see the creative ways members of the open-source community update the new firmware to meet their needs. However, TP-LINK does not offer any guarantees or technical support for customers attempting to flash any third-party firmware to their devices. Don't lose all your hopes yet. Developer Sebastian Gottschall, who works on DD-WRT Linux-based firmware, believes that TP-Link hasn't blocked third-party firmware. He adds, "Just the firmware header has been a little bit changed and a region code has been added. This has been introduced in September 2015. DD-WRT for instance does still provide compatible images... in fact it's no lock." Furthermore, Cisco insists that FCC's existing or proposed rules doesn't limit or eliminate the ability of a developer to use open source software.

Russian Bitcoin Issuers Will Risk 7 Years In Prison (thestack.com) 99

An anonymous reader writes: The Russian Ministry of Finance has announced an amendment to the country's criminal code which will impose prison sentences of up to seven years for the issuing of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. A government source speaking to Interfax (Russian) said that the maximum prison sentence for individuals found issuing cryptocurrencies would be 2-4 years, and/or up to three years' worth of salary or income, whilst managers of dispensing institutions could face seven years in prison, up to four years of income equivalent in fines, and a lifetime ban from similar posts. Russia announced the ban on Bitcoin or other 'money surrogates' in February of 2014, asserting that cryptocurrencies facilitate money-laundering and other criminal activity.

Home Depot Will Pay Up To $19.5 Million For Massive 2014 Data Breach (csoonline.com) 66

itwbennett writes: In remedy for the 2014 data breach that included the theft of data pertaining to about 56 million payment cards, as well as 53 million email addresses, Home Depot has reportedly agreed to pay $13 million to reimburse customers for their losses and $6.5 million to provide them with 18 months of identity protection services. And while the company was not required to admit wrongdoing, it has agreed to hire a chief information security officer.

FTC Demands Info From PCI Auditors On Breached Companies' Compliance 101

Trailrunner7 writes: The Federal Trade Commission has sent an order to nine of the larger companies that do PCI DSS assessments, demanding that the organizations turn over detailed information on how they conduct those audits, how often they actually declare a company non-compliant, and many other details. The FTC on Monday said it has sent orders to nine of these companies, including Mandiant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Verizon Enterprise Solutions, requiring that they provide details of how they handle those assessments. Specifically, the FTC is very interested in how many companies were deemed PCI compliant in the year before they suffered a data breach. Many companies that have been victims of data breaches over the years have touted the fact that they were PCI compliant at the time of their breaches. This has not escaped the FTC's notice

Forget "Bottom-up" Reporting of Emissions; Try an Atmospheric Monitoring System (thebulletin.org) 68

Lasrick writes: Ray Weiss at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography describes how countries report greenhouse gas emissions -- a 'bottom-up' approach that can result in inventories that differ from those determined by measuring the actual increases of emitted gases in the atmosphere. Weiss proposes a 'top-down" atmospheric monitoring system for greenhouse gases, and goes into the technology that already exists for doing so.

Record-Breaking 11000ft Flight Sparks Criticism In Pilot Community 233

An anonymous reader writes: In an attempt to break the world 'how high can you fly a consumer drone' record, an anonymous person from the Netherlands flew a Phantom 2 Quadcopter to a height of up to 3.4 km. That is more than 3 km above the maximum European Union legal height of 120 meters, which has applied since July 1, 2015 to hobby drones. Undoubtedly he set a new record of sorts, which also led to substantial discussions among the drone pilot community on the safe use of drones. At a height of 3.4 kilometers or 11000 feet you can indeed run into regular air traffic, or cause a lot of damage in case of a crash. Fortunately not in this flight -- but the battery had only 4% capacity at the moment of landing.

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