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Businesses

Silicon Valley Is Filling Up With Ex-Obama Staffers 87 87

HughPickens.com writes: Edward-Isaac Dovere reports in Politico that the fastest-growing chapter of the Obama alumni association is in Silicon Valley. For the people who helped get Obama elected and worked for him once he did, there's something about San Francisco and its environs that just feels right: the emphasis on youth and trying things that might fail, chasing that feeling of working for the underdog, and even using that word "disrupting" to describe what they do. "A lot of people who moved out here were present at the creation of the Obama '08 campaign," says Tommy Vietor. "There's a piece of them that wants to replicate that." Vietor left the White House two years ago, and he and his business partner, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, founded a communications strategy firm with a focus on speechwriting for tech and other start-ups. "If you're writing for a CEO out here, they're more likely to be your peer than your grandfather," says Vietor. "They're young, they're cool, they get it."

Other former Obama staffers who have come to Silicon Valley include former campaign manager and White House adviser David Plouffe at Uber, Kyle O'Connor at Nest, Semonti Stephens at Twitter; Mike Masserman, at Lyft; Brandon Lepow at Facebook; Nicole Isaac, at LinkedIn; Liz Jarvis-Shean at Civis; Jim Green and Vivek Kundra at Salesforce, Alex McPhillips at Google; Gillian Bergeron, at NextDoor; Natalie Foster at the Institute for the Future; Catherine Bracy at Code for America; Hallie Montoya Tansey at Target Labs. Nick Papas, John Baldo, Courtney O'Donnell and Clark Stevens at AirBnB, and Jessica Santillo at Uber.

There are so many former Obama staffers in the Bay Area that a recent visit by former White House senior adviser David Axelrod served as a reunion of sorts, with more than a dozen campaign and White House veterans gathering over lunch to discuss life after the administration. Obama himself rarely misses an opportunity to come to San Francisco. He says he loves the energy there, loves the people and according to Dovere, the city's ultra-liberal leanings mean he was greeted as a rock star even during the dark days before last year's midterms. Obama's even become friendly with Elon Musk. "There should be a welcome booth at the SFO airport," says Jon Carson, the former Organizing for Action executive director now at SolarCity.
Facebook

Brazilian Evangelicals Set Up a "Sin Free" Version of Facebook 181 181

An anonymous reader writes: With $16,000 and the help of the Mayor of Ferraz de Vasconcelos, the town he lives in, Atilla Barros and three other Evangelical Christians created Facegloria, a "sin-free" version of Facebook. Swearing is banned, along with about 600 other words, as well as any violent or erotic content, and depictions of homosexual activity. 100,000 users have signed up the first month. "In two years we hope to get to 10 million users in Brazil. In a month we have had 100,000 and in two we are expecting a big increase thanks to a mobile phone app," Barros says. Acir dos Santos, the mayor, adds: "Our network is global. We have bought the Faceglory domain in English and in all possible languages. We want to take on Facebook and Twitter here and everywhere."
Google

Google Hangouts and SMS Integration: A Mess, For Now 62 62

Android Headlines reports that a bug in the Google Hangouts app is causing confusion for users who would like to send and receive SMS messages. According to the article, [S]ome users are reporting an issue that is preventing the merging of SMS messages with Hangouts. The exact nature of what is causing this error is still unknown, as Google has not divulged any concrete information. They did state though that they are working on a fix and will have it ready for release as soon as they figure out what is going on. On this front, I wish there were a good roadmap for all the overlapping and sometimes circular-seeming options for Google's various flavors of VoiP and messaging. Between Google Voice, Google Plus, Messenger (not Facebook's Messenger), Gmail, and now Google Fi, it's hard to tell quite where the there begins. After setting up a new phone through Google Fi, I find that the very pleasant full-screen text-message window I used to like with Google Voice is now one I can't figure out how to reach, and the screen directs me to use Hangouts instead.
Encryption

Cameron Asserts UK Gov't Will Leave No "Safe Space" For Private Communications 256 256

An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to 'leave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?
Windows

Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi Password With Contacts 482 482

gsslay writes: The Register reports that Windows 10 will include, defaulted on, "Wi-Fi Sense" which shares wifi passwords with Outlook.com contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, Facebook friends. This involves Microsoft storing the wifi passwords entered into your laptop which can then be used by any other person suitably connected to you. If you don't want someone's Windows 10 passing on your password, Microsoft has two solutions; only share passwords using their Wi-Fi Sense service, or by adding "_optout" to your SSID.
Data Storage

Where Facebook Stores 900 Million New Photos Per Day 120 120

1sockchuck writes: Facebook faces unique storage challenges. Its users upload 900 million new images daily, most of which are only viewed for a couple of days. The social network has built specialized cold storage facilities to manage these rarely-accessed photos. Data Center Frontier goes inside this facility, providing a closer look at Facebook's newest strategy: Using thousands of Blu-Ray disks to store images, complete with a robotic retrieval system (see video demo). Others are interested as well. Sony recently acquired a Blu-Ray storage startup founded by Open Compute chairman Frank Frankovsky, which hopes to drive enterprise adoption of optical data storage.
Privacy

When a Company Gets Sold, Your Data May Be Sold, Too 92 92

An anonymous reader writes: A new report points out that many of the top internet sites have language in their privacy policies saying that your private data might be transferred in the event of an acquisition, bankruptcy sale, or other transaction. They effectively say, "We won't ever sell your information, unless things go bad for us." 85 of the top 100 websites in the U.S. (ranked by Alexa), had this sort of language, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hulu, and LinkedIn. (RadioShack did this recently.) "The potential ramifications of the fire sale provisions became clear two years ago when True.com, a dating site based in Plano, Tex., that was going through a bankruptcy proceeding, tried to sell its customer database on 43 million members to a dating site based in Canada. The profiles included consumers' names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. Because the site's privacy policy had promised never to sell or share members' personal details without their permission, Texas was able to intervene to stop the sale of customer data, including intimate details on about two million Texans." But with this new language, users no longer enjoy that sort of protection. Only 17 of the top 100 sites even say they will notify customers of the data transfer. Only a handful allow users to opt out.
Facebook

FB Reveals Woeful Diversity Numbers 256 256

theodp writes: There's more work to do," said Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who issued a straight-out-of-How-to-Lie-With-Statistics diversity update on Thursday that essentially consisted of a handful of bar charts labeled with only percentages for select measures of the social networking giant's current demographics. In search of real numbers, the Guardian turned to Facebook's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity report filing, which showed that the ranks of black employees swelled by a grand total of seven (7) (1 woman) in the year covered by the filing, during which time Facebook saw an overall headcount increase of 1,231. Comparing Facebook's new bar charts of US tech employees to those issued last year shows the proportion of Hispanic and Black employees remained flat at 3% and 1% respectively, while a decline in the proportion of white employees from 53% to 51% was offset by an increase in the proportion of Asian employees from 41% to 43%.
The Almighty Buck

Philanthropy For Hackers 27 27

An anonymous reader writes: Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook, was part of a generation of geeks who rode the dot-com boom to financial success. Over the past two decades, that population has dramatically increased, and former hackers are carving out spots as leaders of industry. In the Wall Street Journal, Parker has posted advice for how the hacker elite can approach philanthropy. He points out that they're already bringing a level of strategy and efficacy to charity work that hasn't been seen before. "These budding philanthropists want metrics and analytic tools comparable to the dashboards, like Mixpanel, that power their software products. They want to interact directly with the scientists, field workers and academics whose ideas power the philanthropic world but who have traditionally been hidden away in a backroom somewhere, shielded from their beneficiaries by so-called development officers." One thing he advises is keeping away from large charity organizations, which largely exist to keep themselves going. He also suggests getting actively involved with the political process, even if such organizations are often distasteful.
Google

Google Takes Over NYC's Free WiFi Project 68 68

dkatana writes: Google's new Smart Cities venture Sidewalk Labs announced the purchase of Intersection, the new company behind the LinkNYC project. nGoogle wants to speed up the developing of free internet access to New York residents and visitors, as a way to gather more information about their activities. Users of the pylons will provide the company invaluable data about their habits, places they visit, and browsing activity.

As part of the original LinkNYC plan, Intersection is scheduled to start deploying the new ad-supported, locally manufactured, WiFi 'pylons' this fall, reaching all five boroughs of the city. It will be the largest and fastest free municipal WiFi system in the world. After that, the company plans to start rolling out similar initiatives in other U.S. cities, but details have not been made public yet.
Facebook

Facebook's Absurd Pseudonym Purgatory 290 290

An anonymous reader sends a story from a writer whose Facebook account was locked because somebody reported it as using a pseudonym. It doesn't, but Facebook demands a look at identification documents before releasing control over the account. Anyone whose name doesn't sound "real" to Facebook is at risk for this, and the social network doesn't even have a consistent stance on what an "authentic" name is. "Aside from the complexity of identity, the policy is haphazardly enforced at best. At worst, it’s dangerous and discriminatory, and has demonstrably and repeatedly been used to target people who often already are marginalized and vulnerable." Matt Cagle, attorney for the ACLU, says, "By controlling the identity of the speaker with this policy, Facebook has the effect of both reducing speech and eliminating speakers from the platform altogether. This is a particularly concerning move to the ACLU because forums like Facebook serve as the modern-day equivalent of the public square for a lot of communities.
Social Networks

Facebook Has a New Private Mobile Photo-Sharing App, and They Built It In C++ 173 173

jfruh writes: Facebook [on Monday] announced Moments, a new mobile app that uses Facebook's facial recognition technology to let you sync up photos only with friends who are in those photos with you. Somewhat unusually for a new app, the bulk of it is built in the venerable C++ language, which turned out to be easier for building a cross-platform mobile app than other more "modern" languages.
Facebook

Belgian Privacy Watchdog Sues Facebook 72 72

An anonymous reader writes: Belgium is taking Facebook to task – and to court – about the company's opaque user-monitoring frameworks. The country's independent Privacy Commission, which is partnered with equivalent institutions in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain, failed to obtain information from the social media giant about the extent and nature of its user-analysis network, and has now decided to take action. The commission is particularly interested in the use that Facebook makes of information about users who are not logged in to Facebook, and may not even be members. The ubiquity of Facebook "share" buttons, along with other popular widgets or modules, have extended the company's reach far beyond its own site. The court convenes on the matter this Thursday.
The Media

Journalist Burned Alive In India For Facebook Post Exposing Corruption 219 219

arnott writes: Journalist Jagendra Singh used a Facebook page to expose corruption in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Though he posted under a pseudonym, he was quickly found and burned alive by police, allegedly on the order of the minister accused. He died a week later from his injuries. This is not the first case of a journalist being attacked in this state. Amnesty International had urged the local government to launch an official investigation, and now five policemen and a politician have been brought up on murder charges. What can Facebook or other companies do to help these journalists report on corruption in a safe manner?
The Internet

ISP Breaking Net Neutrality? The FCC's Got a Complaint Form For That 99 99

Presto Vivace writes with news from The Consumerist that the FCC has updated its consumer help center with a revamped form for complaining about an unsatisfactory ISP. From the article: Among the issues concerned consumers can complain about, the form now contains "open internet/net neutrality," right there alphabetically between "interference" and "privacy." So what, specifically, qualifies as a net neutrality violation you can complain about? The FCC has guidance for that, too. In general, paraphrased, it's a problem if there's:

Blocking: ISPs may not block access to any lawful content, apps, services, or devices.
Throttling: ISPs may not slow down or degrade lawful internet traffic from any content, apps, sites, services, or devices.
Paid prioritization: ISPs may not enter into agreements to prioritize and benefit some lawful internet traffic over the rest of it on their networks.
Apple

Woz To Be Immortalized In Wax 72 72

mikejuk writes: Having already made wax figures of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, the Madame Tussauds museum recently put out a call for nominations for who should be next, with the stipulation that the nominees have a connection with the Bay Area. The shortlist was then whittled down to ten, including Google co-founder Larry Page, Tesla's Elon Musk, Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. Any of them would look great as wax figures, but outcome of the public vote was a clear winner — Steve Wozniak. Once his statue is complete Woz will be on display next to Steve Jobs in San Francisco and an ideal setting for a selfie.
Facebook

How Facebook Is Eating the $140 Billion Hardware Market 89 89

mattydread23 writes: It started out as a controversial idea inside Facebook. In four short years, the Open Compute Project has turned the $141 billion data-center computer-hardware industry on its head. This is the comprehensive history of the project, including interviews with founder Jonathan Heiliger and members of the financial services industry who are already on board, plus a dismissal from Google's own data center guru Urs Holzle.
Software

Face Recognition Tech Pushes Legal Boundaries 110 110

An anonymous reader writes: As face recognition software becomes more capable, companies and governments are coming up with new ways to use it. Microsoft has already patented a Minority Report-style personalized billboard, and loss prevention departments in big stores are rolling out systems to "pre-identify" shoplifters. But this rush to implement the technology runs afoul of privacy laws in at least two U.S. states: Illinois and Texas forbid the use of face recognition software without "informed consent" from the target. Facebook is the target of a recent lawsuit in Illinois over this exact issue; it's likely to test the strength of such a law. "Facebook and Google use facial recognition to detect when a user appears in a photograph and to suggest that he or she be tagged. Facebook calls this "Tag Suggestions" ... With the boom in personalized advertising technology, a facial recognition database of its users is likely very, very valuable to Facebook. ... Eager to extract that value, Facebook signed users up by default when it introduced Tag Suggestions in 2011. This meant that Facebook calculated faceprints for every user who didn't take the steps to opt out." If Facebook loses and citizens start pushing for similar laws in other states, it could keep our activities in public relatively anonymous for a bit longer.
Encryption

US Tech Giants Ask Obama Not To Compromise Encryption 108 108

An anonymous reader writes: Two industry bodies which represent Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, IBM, and others, have written to President Obama urging that the U.S. government not seek to legislate "official back doors" into encryption techniques. The Software and Information Industry Association and the Information Technology Industry Council sent the "strongly worded" letter on Monday, saying, "Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component enabling continued economic growth of the online marketplace. Accordingly, we urge you not to pursue any policy or proposal that would require or encourage companies to weaken these technologies, including the weakening of encryption or creating encryption 'work-arounds.'" The letter is the latest salvo in a public battle for secure communications, one that has reached the public eye in a way that few security stories do.
The Internet

SpaceX Wants Permission To Test Satellite Internet 98 98

An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has filed documents with the FCC asking for permission to begin testing a project to serve internet access from space. "The plan calls for launching a constellation of 4,000 small and cheap satellites that would beam high-speed Internet signals to all parts of the globe, including its most remote regions." This follows news that Facebook and Google had stepped back their efforts in that arena. SpaceX could prove to be a better fit for the project, given that they need only rely on themselves for launching satellites into orbit. "The satellites would be deployed from one of SpaceX's rockets, the Falcon 9. Once in orbit, the satellites would connect to ground stations at three West Coast facilities. The purpose of the tests is to see whether the antenna technology used on the satellites will be able to deliver high-speed Internet to the ground without hiccups."