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Google

Google Plans To Alter JavaScript Popups After Abuse From Tech Support Scammers (bleepingcomputer.com) 10

An anonymous reader writes: Chromium engineers are discussing plans to change how JavaScript popups work inside Chrome and other similar browsers. In a proposal published on the Google Developers portal, the Chromium team acknowledged that JavaScript popups are consistently used to harm users.

To combat this threat, Google engineers say they plan to make JavaScript modals, like the alert(), confirm(), and dialog() methods, only work on a per-tab basis, and not per-window. This change means that popups won't block users from switching and closing the tab, putting an end to any overly-aggresive tactics on the part of the website's owner(s).

There is no timeline on Google's decision to move JavaScript popups to a per-tab model, but Chromium engineers have been debating this issue since July 2016 as part of Project OldSpice. A similar change was made to Safari 9.1, released this week. Apple's decision came after crooks used a bug in Safari to block users on malicious pages using popups. Crooks then tried to extort payment, posing as ransomware.

Music

Safe Harbor Cost the US Music Industry Up To $1B in Lost Royalties Per Year, Study Finds (musicweek.com) 65

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the first time, researchers have quantified the "value gap" and its impact on the US recorded music industry. A study published yesterday (March 29) by Washington, DC-based economy think tank the Phoenix Centre For Advanced Legal And Economic Public Policy Studies attempted to calculate how much revenue the recording industry loses from the distortions caused by the safe harbor provisions. Entitled Safe Harbors And The Evolution of Music Retailing, the study was conducted by T. Randolph Beard, George S. Ford and Michael Stern who applied "accepted economic modelling techniques" to simulate revenue effects from royalty rate changes on YouTube. It showed that if YouTube were to pay the recorded music industry market rates, similar to what other streaming services pay, its economic contributions to the sector would be significantly bigger. The premises used by the Phoenix Centre economists was that, according to the music recording industry, YouTube evades paying market rates for the use of copyrighted content by exploiting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provisions, which allow to post creative content online in good faith and remove it if rights holders so require. Using 2015 data, the Phoenix Centre found that "a plausible royalty rate increase could produce increased royalty revenues in the US of $650 million to over one billion dollars a year."
Social Networks

Facebook Announces Crowdfunding Service To Back Causes Such As Medical Needs (androidandme.com) 33

Facebook said today it is introducing a crowdfunding feature to help users back causes such as education, medical needs, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergencies and funerals. The new tool, which appears to offer similar features as GoFundMe, allows users 18 or older to "raise money for themselves, a friend or someone or something not on Facebook." From a report: Personal Fundraisers are available in several specific categories, and require a 24-hour review process. Here are the covered categories for now:
Education: such as tuition, books or classroom supplies.
Medical: such as medical procedures, treatments or injuries.
Pet Medical: such as veterinary procedures, treatments or injuries.
Crisis Relief: such as public crises or natural disasters.
Personal Emergency: such as a house fire, theft or car accident.
Funeral and Loss: such as burial expenses or living costs after losing a loved one.

United Kingdom

Britain Wants Tech Firms to Tackle Extremism (fortune.com) 77

Britain will tell Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft on Thursday to do more to stop extremists posting content on their platforms and using encrypted messaging services to plan attacks. From a report: Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday tech companies should stop offering a "secret place for terrorists to communicate," after British parliament attacker Khalid Masood was widely reported to have sent encrypted messages moments before he killed four people last week. Rudd has summoned the Internet companies to a meeting to urge them to do more to block extremist content from platforms like Facebook and Google's YouTube, but a government spokesman said encryption was also on the agenda. "The message is the government thinks there is more they can do in relation to taking down extremist and hate material and that is what they are going to be talking about this afternoon," the prime minister's spokesman said on Thursday.
Television

Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola Urge Fans To Watch Films in Cinemas, Not On Netflix (theguardian.com) 214

Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola have urged audiences to see their films in the cinema at a time when the movie industry is reckoning with the growing popularity of video on demand and streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. From a report: Presenting their forthcoming films at CinemaCon, the annual convention organised by the National Association of Theatre Owners, the directors said that they hoped fans opted to watch them at movie theatres, where they were "meant to be seen." Nolan made his comments during a presentation of his second world war drama Dunkirk, at which he previewed footage from the film. "This is a story that needs to carry you through the suspenseful situation, and make you feel like you are there, and the only way to do that is through theatrical distribution," Nolan told the audience. "I am depending and relying on all of you to try to present this film in the best way possible." Coppola echoed Nolan's comments during a Focus Features presentation for The Beguiled, a remake of the Clint Eastwood civil war drama starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.
Spam

Airline Fined For Sending 3.3 Million Unwanted Emails (bbc.com) 15

The airline Flybe has been fined 70,000 pound ($87,000) for sending more than 3.3 million marketing emails to people who had opted out of receiving them. From a report on BBC: The emails, sent in August 2016, advised people to amend out-of-date personal information and update their marketing preferences. They also gave people the chance to enter a prize draw. But the regulator said Flybe should have obtained people's consent before sending the emails. "Sending emails to determine whether people want to receive marketing, without the right consent, is still marketing, and it is against the law," said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office. "In Flybe's case, the company deliberately contacted people who had already opted out of emails from them."
Government

Will VPNs Protect Your Privacy? It's Complicated 95

From a CNET report: A VPN redirects your internet traffic, disguising where your computer, phone or other device is when it makes contact with websites. It also encrypts information you send across the internet, making it unreadable to anyone who intercepts your traffic. That includes your internet service provider. Ha! Problem solved -- right? Well, sort of. The big catch is, now the VPN has your internet traffic and browsing history, instead of your ISP. What's to stop the VPN from selling your information to the highest bidder? Of course, there are reputable VPN services out there, but it's incumbent on you the user to "do your homework," Ajay Arora, CEO of cybersecurity company Vera said. In addition to making sure the VPN will actually keep your data private, you'll want to make sure there's nothing shady in the terms and conditions. Shady how? Well, in 2015, a group of security-minded coders discovered that free VPN service Hola was selling its users' bandwidth to the paying customers of its Luminati service. That meant some random person could have been using your internet connection to do something illegal. So, shady like that. "I would recommend you do some cursory level research in terms of reputation [and] how long they've been around," Arora said, "And when you sign up, read the fine print." From a report on Wired: Christian Haschek, an Austria-based security researcher, wrote a script that analyzed 443 open proxies, which route web traffic through an alternate, often pseudo-anonymous, computer network. The script tested the proxies to see if they modified site content or allowed users to browse sites while using encryption. According to Haschek's research, just 21 percent of the tested proxies weren't "shady." Haschek found that the other 79 percent of surveyed proxy services forbid secure, HTTPS traffic.
The Internet

Trolling Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better, Study Says (mashable.com) 162

If you thought that the internet had a chance of becoming a nicer place at any point in the near future, it might be time to give up hope. From a report: "Harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust" will stay the norm on the internet over the next decade, experts told the Pew Research Center in a new report. The Pew Research Center and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University surveyed about 1,500 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners and government leaders in July and August 2016 for the study, and the results are pretty demoralizing. Forty-two percent of respondents thought the internet would stay the same sometimes less-than-pleasant place over the next 10 years, while another 39 percent said they thought the internet would become a more negative environment. Just under 20 percent of experts thought the internet had any chance of getting better over the next decade when it comes to harassment and trolling.
Network

Cisco Developing Standalone Networking OS, Report Says (crn.com) 51

Cisco has built a new network operating system that will allow users to run its most sophisticated networking features on older and lower-cost Cisco routers and switches, according to a report. From a report: The move to potentially disrupt its networking hardware business was first reported by The Information, which said that Cisco, for now, is not looking to have its network operating system available for non-Cisco switches. Customers who want to run the new operating system, known as Lindt, will be able to move away from switches based on proprietary high-performance Cisco chips to Cisco hardware that works with lower-cost chips, according to the report.
The Internet

UW Professor: The Information War Is Real, and We're Losing It (seattletimes.com) 321

An anonymous reader writes: It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange. Too strange for a university professor to take seriously. "There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing," Starbird told me the other day in her office. "It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it." Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by "crisis actors" for political purposes. "After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity," Starbird says. "It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it. "That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it." Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these "strange clusters" of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach. There are dozens of conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots. Starbird is in the UW's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering -- the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as "false flag" and "crisis actor," web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying? Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we've built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor. "Your brain tells you 'Hey, I got this from three different sources,'" Starbird says. "But you don't realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn't know how to vaccinate for it." The report goes on to say that "Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward 'the menace of unreality -- which is that nobody believes anything anymore.'"
Education

Ivanka Trump To Take Coding Class With 5-Year-Old Daughter (hollywoodlife.com) 284

theodp writes: Speaking about women in STEM at a Women's History Month event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, new [unpaid] federal employee Ivanka Trump revealed she'll be taking a computer coding class with her 5-year-old daughter. "On a very personal level, as a mom I'm trying to do my part as well," Ivanka told the crowd. "My daughter Arabella and I are enrolling in a coding class this summer." Parroting supermodel Karlie Kloss (the girlfriend of Ivanka's brother-in-law), the first daughter added, "We're excited to learn this incredibly important new language together. Coding truly is the language of the future."
Space

The Guardian Interviews Valentina Tereshkova, the First Woman In Space (theguardian.com) 72

Oxygen99 writes: The Guardian published an interview today with the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, ahead of her forthcoming exhibition at the London Science Museum. An interesting and informal chat with perhaps the most visible and famous living face of the Soviet space program. Here's an excerpt from the interview: "Over 50 years ago, in 1963, Tereshkova became the first woman to go into space, and it was her parachuting experience that qualified her for selection. She was only 26 when she made her one and only space flight, but that feat has defined the rest of her life. It propelled her into the upper reaches of the Soviet elite, and gave her security for life. That elevation though came at a life-long cost: a treadmill of obligations that has lasted more than half a century. Public speaking, accepting honors, roving the world as a citizen-diplomat, being a very visible part of Soviet, and now Russian, public life, are roles that she continues to fulfill to this day. Hence her visit to London for the opening of a display of artifacts linked to her cosmonaut's life. It is one of a series of UK-Russia collaborations, following the hugely successful Russian space exhibition at the museum last year."
The Internet

Scientists Discover Way To Transmit Taste of Lemonade Over Internet (vice.com) 85

schwit1 quotes a report from VICE: With the use of electrodes and sensors -- and zero lemons -- a group of researchers at the University of Singapore have announced that they can convince you that you're drinking lemonade, even if it's just water. Plus, they can send you a glass of lemonade virtually over the internet. In an experiment that involved 13 tasters, the subjects' taste buds were stimulated using electricity from receiving electrodes; LED lights mimicked a lemony color. Some were convinced that the water they were drinking was, in fact, almost as sour as lemonade. According to researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe, the experiment proved that taste can be shared online: "People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media -- what if you could upload the taste as well? That's the ultimate goal." Each of the subjects was given a tumbler filled with a liquid that was either cloudy white, green, or yellow. They were told to place their tongues on the rim of the tumbler before sipping. Then they took a taste and rated the beverage on appearance and taste. Some of the liquids were plain water and some were lemonade. "We're working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste, and color all covered. We want to be able to create any drink." Why would anyone want to drink a virtual lemonade? Advocates of virtual eating say that virtual foods can replace foods that are bad for you, that you may be allergic to, or that you shouldn't eat because of a medical condition.
Government

FCC To Halt Expansion of Broadband Subsidies For Poor People (arstechnica.com) 340

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that the FCC will be "dropping its legal defense of a new system for expanding broadband subsidies for poor people, and will not approve applications from companies that want to offer the low-income broadband service," reports Ars Technica. The Lifeline program, which has been around for 32 years and "gives poor people $9.25 a month toward communications services," was voted to be expanded last year under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. That expansion will now be halted. Ars Technica reports: Pai's decision won't prevent Lifeline subsidies from being used toward broadband, but it will make it harder for ISPs to gain approval to sell the subsidized plans. Last year's decision enabled the FCC to approve new Lifeline Broadband Providers nationwide so that ISPs would not have to seek approval from each state's government. Nine providers were approved under the new system late in former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's term, but Pai rescinded those approvals in February. There are 36 pending applications from ISPs before the commission's Wireline Competition Bureau. However, Pai wrote today, "I do not believe that the Bureau should approve these applications." He argues that only state governments have authority from Congress to approve such applications. When defending his decision to revoke Lifeline approvals for the nine companies, Pai said last month that more than 900 Lifeline providers were not affected. But most of those were apparently offering subsidized telephone service only and not subsidized broadband. Currently, more than 3.5 million Americans are receiving subsidized broadband through Lifeline from 259 eligible providers, Pai said in today's statement. About 99.6 percent of Americans who get subsidized broadband through Lifeline buy it from one of the companies that received certification "through a lawful process," Pai wrote. The remaining 0.4 percent apparently need to switch providers or lose service because of Pai's February decision. Only one ISP had already started providing the subsidized service under the new approval, and it was ordered to notify its customers that they can no longer receive Lifeline discounts. Pai's latest action would prevent new providers from gaining certification in multiple states at once, forcing them to go through each state's approval process separately. Existing providers that want to expand to multiple states would have to complete the same state-by-state process.
Android

Verizon To Force 'AppFlash' Spyware On Android Phones 114

saccade.com writes: Verizon is joining with the creators of a tool called "Evie Launcher" to make a new app search/launcher tool called AppFlash, which will be installed on all Verizon phones running Android. The app provides no functionality to users beyond what Google Search does. It does, however, give Verizon a steady stream of metrics on your app usage and searches. A quick glance at the AppFlash privacy policy confirms this is the real purpose behind it: "We collect information about your device and your use of the AppFlash services. This information includes your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system, and information about the AppFlash features and services you use and your interactions with them. We also access information about the list of apps you have on your device. [...] AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices."

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