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AT&T

Time Warner Deal Aftermath: AT&T Is About To Give Free TV To Its Wireless Customers (cnbc.com) 50

AT&T completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner yesterday and we're already starting to see some exclusive deals offered to its customers. CNBC reports that the company "will be launching a 'very, very skinny bundle' of television programming free to its mobile customers." From the report: "We will be launching, and you're going to hear more about this next week, a product called 'AT&T Watch TV,'" Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It will be the Turner content. It will not have sports. It'll be entertainment-centered." AT&T's unlimited wireless customers will get the service for free, Stephenson said, "or you can buy it for $15 a month on any platform." The service will be ad-supported, and AT&T will be ramping up an advertising platform, he said. He added that the company expects in coming weeks to make smaller acquisitions to enable those ad efforts. CNBC is also reporting that Time Warner is changing its name to WarnerMedia, and Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin is departing the company.
Privacy

Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative (theverge.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal.

In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

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.

Facebook

Facebook Offers Nearly 500 Pages of Answers To Congress' Questions From Zuckerberg's Testimony (washingtonpost.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: Facebook pledged to continue refining its privacy practices and investigating its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica in nearly 500 pages of new information supplied to Congress and published Monday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) -- though the social giant sidestepped some of lawmakers' most critical queries. Much as it did during the hearing, Facebook told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee that it is reviewing all apps available on its platform that had access to large queries of data, a process that already has resulted in 200 suspensions.

Facebook did acknowledge that its consultants embedded in 2016 presidential campaigns, including President Trump's team, "did not identify any issues involving the improper use of Facebook data in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica." In another exchange, Facebook said it had provided "technical support and best practices guidance to advertisers, including Cambridge Analytica, on using Facebook's advertising tools." Facebook also pointed to new tools meant to address its privacy practices, including a feature called Clear History, which "will enable people to see the websites and apps that send us information when they use them, delete this information from their accounts, and turn off our ability to store it associated with their accounts going forward," the company said.
The social network did continue to sidestep many of the lawmakers' questions and concerns. The Washington Post provides a couple examples: "Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Del.), for example, probed whether Facebook had ever learned of any application developer 'transferring or selling user data without user consent' and in violation of Facebook's policies. In response, Facebook only committed in writing that it would 'investigate all apps that it had access to large amounts of data.'"

Facebook also didn't address Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy's concerns. He asked Facebook to detail if the Obama campaign in 2012 had violated "any of Facebook's policies, and thereby get banned from the platform." Facebook said: "Both the Obama and Romney campaigns had access to the same tools, and no campaign received any special treatment from Facebook."

You can view the nearly 500 pages of new information here.
Advertising

Washington Sues Facebook, Google For Failure To Disclose Political Ad Spending (techcrunch.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information -- such as the advertiser's address -- as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general. Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided." Specifically, "documents and books of account" must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment, and description services rendered. Bob Ferguson, Washington's attorney general, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that both Facebook and Google "failed to obtain and maintain" this information.
Facebook

Zuckerberg Grilled At Angry Facebook Shareholder's Meeting (mercurynews.com) 165

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News' report on Facebook's annual shareholder's meeting: On Thursday in Menlo Park, one investor compared the social network's poor stewardship of user data to a human rights violation. Another warned that scandal is not good for Facebook's bottom line. And one advised Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to emulate George Washington, not Vladimir Putin, and avoid turning Facebook into a "corporate dictatorship." Facebook struggled to keep order, kicking one woman out of the meeting within the first few minutes for repeated interruptions. A plane zipped overhead pulling a banner that read "YOU BROKE DEMOCRACY" and advertising Freedom From Facebook, a group of privacy and anti-monopoly activists that are pressing the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to break up the company...

Zuckerberg repeated the same reassurances he used in front of U.S. and European lawmakers earlier this year: The company hasn't taken a broad enough view of its responsibility... "We're also very focused on being more transparent," Zuckerberg said, touting the fact that the company had just posted its policies on content moderation for the first time. Minutes earlier, the company announced that shareholder proposals for more transparency and oversight had failed, surprising no one. Zuckerberg controls the company through special stock that gives him more votes than other shareholders.

"Facebook said that just because the proposals were blocked, that didn't mean the company doesn't care about these issues."
The Internet

CSS Is Now So Overpowered It Can Deanonymize Facebook Users (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Some of the recent additions to the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) web standard are so powerful that a security researcher has abused them to deanonymize visitors to a demo site and reveal their Facebook usernames, avatars, and if they liked a particular web page of Facebook. Information leaked via this attack could aid some advertisers linking IP addresses or advertising profiles to real-life persons, posing a serious threat to a user's online privacy. The leak isn't specific to Facebook but affects all sites which allow their content to be embedded on other web pages via iframes.

The actual vulnerability resides in the browser implementation of a CSS feature named "mix-blend-mode," added in 2016 in the CSS3 web standard. Security researchers have proven that by overlaying multiple layers of 1x1px-sized DIV layers on top of iframes, each layer with a different blend mode, they could determine what's displayed inside it and recover the data, to which parent websites cannot regularly access. This attack works in Chrome and Firefox, but has been fixed in recent versions.

Firefox

'Why I'm Switching From Chrome To Firefox and You Should Too' (fastcodesign.com) 337

An anonymous reader quotes an associate technology editor at Fast Company's Co.Design: While the amount of data about me may not have caused harm in my life yet -- as far as I know -- I don't want to be the victim of monopolistic internet oligarchs as they continue to cash in on surveillance-based business models. What's a concerned citizen of the internet to do? Here's one no-brainer: Stop using Chrome and switch to Firefox... [W]hy should I continue to use the company's browser, which acts as literally the window through which I experience much of the internet, when its incentives -- to learn a lot about me so it can sell advertisements -- don't align with mine....?

Unlike Chrome, Firefox is run by Mozilla, a nonprofit organization that advocates for a "healthy" internet. Its mission is to help build an internet in an open-source manner that's accessible to everyone -- and where privacy and security are built in. Contrast that to Chrome's privacy policy, which states that it stores your browsing data locally unless you are signed in to your Google account, which enables the browser to send that information back to Google. The policy also states that Chrome allows third-party websites to access your IP address and any information that site has tracked using cookies. If you care about privacy at all, you should ditch the browser that supports a company using data to sell advertisements and enabling other companies to track your online movements for one that does not use your data at all.... Firefox protects you from being tracked by advertising networks across websites, which has the lovely side effect of making sites load faster...

Ultimately, Firefox's designers have the leeway to make these privacy-first decisions because Mozilla's motivations are fundamentally different from Google's. Mozilla is a nonprofit with a mission, and Google is a for-profit corporation with an advertising-based business model.. While Firefox and Chrome ultimately perform the same service, the browsers' developers approached their design in a radically different way because one organization has to serve a bottom line, and the other doesn't.

The article points out that ironically, Mozilla supports its developers partly with revenue from Google, which (along with other search engines) pays to be listed as one of the search engines available in Firefox's search bar.

"But because it relies on these agreements rather than gathering user data so it can sell advertisements, the Mozilla Corporation has a fundamentally different business model than Google."
Advertising

Apple Is Reportedly Eyeing the Ad Business (cnbc.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Wall Street Journal has published a new report detailing one thing we might expect to see on stage at WWDC next week: a digital ad platform expansion. According to the Journal, Apple has been in talks with major apps including Snapchat and Pinterest about the project: "Over the past year, Apple has met with Snap Inc., Pinterest Inc. and other companies about participating in an Apple network that would distribute ads across their collective apps, the people said. Apple would share revenue with the apps displaying the ads, with the split varying from app to app, they said."

The report adds that the new ad effort would expand on the "nearly $1 billion" business of search ads, which it introduced to the App Store in 2016. In addition to app ads being display in search results in the App Store, developers could include advertisements in search results within their own apps: "Under the concept discussed internally and raised with potential partners, users searching in Pinterest's app for 'drapes' might turn up an ad distributed by Apple for an interior-design app, or Snap users searching for 'NFL' might see an ad for a ticket-reseller app, one of the people said."

Businesses

How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men (newyorker.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt of a New Yorker piece: Once, Mad Men ruled advertising. They've now been eclipsed by Math Men -- the engineers and data scientists whose province is machines, algorithms, pureed data, and artificial intelligence. Yet Math Men are beleaguered, as Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated when he humbled himself before Congress, in April. Math Men's adoration of data -- coupled with their truculence and an arrogant conviction that their 'science' is nearly flawless -- has aroused government anger, much as Microsoft did two decades ago.

The power of Math Men is awesome. Google and Facebook each has a market value exceeding the combined value of the six largest advertising and marketing holding companies. Together, they claim six out of every ten dollars spent on digital advertising, and nine out of ten new digital ad dollars. They have become more dominant in what is estimated to be an up to two-trillion-dollar annual global advertising and marketing business. Facebook alone generates more ad dollars than all of America's newspapers, and Google has twice the ad revenues of Facebook.

Facebook

European Lawmakers Asked Mark Zuckerberg Why They Shouldn't Break Up Facebook (theverge.com) 220

European lawmakers questioned Mark Zuckerberg in Brussels today for almost an hour and a half, asking him to address concerns about the Cambridge Analytica data leak and Facebook's potential monopoly. German MEP Manfred Weber asked whether the Facebook CEO could name a single European alternative to his "empire," which includes apps like WhatsApp and Instagram in addition to Facebook. "I think it's time to discuss breaking up Facebook's monopoly, because it's already too much power in only one hand," said Weber. "So I ask you simple, and that is my final question: can you convince me not to do so?" Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt then chimed in and asked whether Facebook would cooperate with European antitrust authorities to determine whether the company was indeed a monopoly, and if it was, whether Facebook would accept splitting off WhatsApp or Messenger to remedy the problem. The Verge reports: The panel's format let Zuckerberg selectively reply to questions at the end of the session, and he didn't address Verhofstadt's points. Instead, he broadly outlined how Facebook views "competition" in various spaces. "We exist in a very competitive space where people use a lot of different tools for communication," said Zuckerberg. "From where I sit, it feels like there are new competitors coming up every day" in the messaging and social networking space. He also said that Facebook didn't hold an advertising monopoly because it only controlled 6 percent of the global advertising market. (It's worth noting: this is still a huge number.) And he argued that Facebook promoted competition by making it easier for small businesses to reach larger audiences -- which is basically unrelated to the question of whether Facebook itself is a monopoly.
Advertising

Should T-Mobile Stop Claiming It Has 'Best Unlimited Network'? (arstechnica.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: Speed isn't everything, or is it? According to a report from Ars Technica, the National Advertising Division (NAD) says T-Mobile should stop claiming that is has "America's Best Unlimited Network" because it needs to prove it also has the widest geographic coverage and best reliability. T-Mobile is saying that speed outweighs all other factors.

"T-Mobile's claim is based on data from Ookla and OpenSignal, which offer speed-testing apps that let consumers test their wireless data speeds," reports Ars Technica. "Both Ookla and OpenSignal have issued reports saying that T-Mobile's speeds were higher than Verizon's, AT&T's, and Sprint's. The OpenSignal tests also gave T-Mobile an edge over rivals in latency and 4G signal availability." T-Mobile "did not provide evidence that its network is superior in providing talk and text mobile services or in providing high-speed data more reliably or to a greater coverage area," the industry group's announcement said.

Businesses

Amazon's New Marketplace Appstore Connects Sellers To Software (cnet.com) 6

Amazon is creating another app store, but it's not for consumers. From a report: Instead, the online retail giant will for the first time put its seal of approval on a bunch of third-party apps intended for professional sellers with its new Marketplace Appstore. It launches to sellers starting Monday, the company said. CNET reported on plans for the app store earlier this month. The new app store, which will be available in North America through Amazon's main hub for sellers called Seller Central, will include tools to handle pricing, inventory, advertising and other needs for pro sellers. The app store will be introduced to sellers slowly to ensure a smooth rollout. "Many developers have innovated and created applications that complement our tools and integrate with our service," Amazon said in a statement Monday. "We created the Marketplace Appstore to help businesses more easily discover these applications, streamline their business operations, and ultimately create a better experience for our customers."
Google

Google Sued For 'Clandestine Tracking' of 4.4 Million UK iPhone Users' Browsing Data (theguardian.com) 33

Google is being sued in the high court for as much as $4.3 billion for the alleged "clandestine tracking and collation" of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK. From a report: The collective action is being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd over claims Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser on iPhones between August 2011 and February 2012 in order to divide people into categories for advertisers. At the opening of an expected two-day hearing in London on Monday, lawyers for Lloyd's campaign group Google You Owe Us told the court information collected by Google included race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd, said information was then "aggregated" and users were put into groups such as "football lovers" or "current affairs enthusiasts" for the targeting of advertising. Tomlinson said the data was gathered through "clandestine tracking and collation" of browsing on the iPhone, known as the "Safari Workaround" -- an activity he said was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012. Tomlinson said Google has already paid $39.5m to settle claims in the US relating to the practice. Google was fined $22.5m for the practice by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and forced to pay $17m to 37 US states.

Advertising

Ads Are Coming To Facebook Stories (techcrunch.com) 31

Facebook Stories has reached 150 million daily active users after launching nearly 14 months ago. So what's the next logical step after reaching such a milestone? Advertisements. According to TechCrunch, Facebook Stories will start testing its first ads today in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. From the report: They're 5- to 15-second video ads users can skip, and while there's no click-through or call to action now, Facebook plans to add that in the coming months. Advertisers can easily extend their Instagram Stories ads to this new surface, or have Facebook automatically reformat their News Feed ads with color-matched borders and text at the bottom. Facebook also plans to give businesses more metrics on their Stories performance to convince them the feature is worth their ad dollars.
The Internet

The Rise of Free Urban Internet (axios.com) 78

Intersection, the Alphabet-backed smart cities startup known for creating free internet kiosks for cities, is pushing to make free internet accessible in as many major cities as possible across the globe. From a report: As more aspects of our daily lives -- from healthcare to communication to travel -- become dependent on internet-connected devices, the concept of providing internet as a public good is becoming more widespread. Intersection is best known for its successful transformation of NYC's 7,500 pay-phones into free internet kiosks that act as hot-spots and advertising space. It's also spreading its programs to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and even London. The program is entirely funded by advertising that the company sells on LinkNYC internet kiosks, so less densely-populated cities may be a tougher sell.
United Kingdom

London Plans To Ban Junk Food Advertising On Public Transport (bloomberg.com) 175

Junk food advertising could be banned from the entire Transport for London network under proposals announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan, as he tries to tackle rising levels of childhood obesity in the city. From a report: "I want to reduce the influence and pressure that can be put on children and families to make unhealthy choices," Khan said in a statement announcing the proposals to ban advertisements for unhealthy food and drink on London's trains, buses and bus shelters. The mayor also proposed a ban on new hot food takeaway stores opening within 400 meters of schools.

London has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe -- nearly 40 percent of 10-11 year-olds in the capital are overweight or obese, according to the statement. Children from poorer areas are disproportionately affected by the "obesity epidemic," Khan said, adding that young people from Barking and Dagenham in East London are almost twice as likely to be overweight as children from the upmarket Richmond neighborhood.

Businesses

Florida Man Behind 100 Million Robocalls Hit With $120 Million FCC Fine (chicagotribune.com) 145

In a massive strike, the Federal Communications Commission issued a $120 million fine on a massive robocall spoofing operation it deemed a threat to public safety. From a report: The FCC announced Thursday morning that it would leverage the fine against Adrian Abramovich, a Miami man who the commission said made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls over a three-month period at the end of 2016. The FCC argued that Abramovich's operation made the phony calls to trick consumers into answering them and listening to his advertising messages. The fine was based on 80,000 spoofed calls the commission had verified.

A complaint filed by the FCC against Abramovich in June 2017 alleged he had broken the Truth in Caller ID Act -- which prohibits callers from falsifying caller ID information to disguise their identity with intent to harm or defraud -- in perpetrating "one of the largest -- and most dangerous -- illegal robocalling campaigns that the commission has ever investigated."

United States

US Congressmen Reveal Thousands of Facebook Ads Bought By Russian Trolls (mercurynews.com) 309

An anonymous reader writes: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released about 3,400 Facebook ads purchased by Russian agents around the 2016 presidential election on issues from immigration to gun control, a reminder of the complexity of the manipulation that Facebook is trying to contain ahead of the midterm elections. The ads, which span from mid-2015 to mid-2017, illustrate the extent to which Kremlin-aligned forces sought to stoke social, cultural and political unrest on one of the Web's most powerful platforms. With the help of Facebook's targeting tools, Russia's online army reached at least 146 million people on Facebook and Instagram, its photo-sharing service, with ads and other posts, including events promoting protests around the country...

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said lawmakers would continue probing Russia's online disinformation efforts. In February, Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia and the 2016 election, indicted individuals tied to the IRA for trying to interfere in the presidential race. "They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior," Schiff said in a statement. "The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us...."

The documents released Thursday also reflect that Russian agents continued advertising on Facebook well after the presidential election... They marketed a page called Born Liberal to likely supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the data show, an ad that had more than 49,000 impressions into 2017. Together, the ads affirmed the fears of some lawmakers, including Republicans, that Russian agents have continued to try to influence U.S. politics even after the 2016 election. Russian agents also had created thousands of accounts on Twitter, and in January, the company revealed that it discovered more than 50,000 automated accounts, or bots, with links to Russia.

Advertising

Placing Election Ads On Google Will Require a Government ID (gizmodo.com) 227

Google announced new policies Friday that will require advertisers to prove they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident when buying election ads. "Under the new guidelines, Google will ask advertisers -- be they individuals, organizations, or political action committees -- to prove they are who they claim to be," reports Gizmodo. "It will also require the ads to include a clear disclosure of who is paying for it." From the report: The change comes after Google and other social media companies revealed their advertising platforms were abused by foreign actors, including the Russian government-backed troll farm Internet Research Agency, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It also places Google's policies in line with U.S. laws for traditional media that restrict foreign entities from running election ads. Where Google's effort falls short, at least in its current iteration, is the new policies only cover ads featuring candidates running for office. So-called "issue ads" that advocate a certain point of view on hot-button topics are not covered in Google's policies.

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