Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Resigns From Web Consortium In Wake of EME DRM Standardization (eff.org) 37

New submitter Frobnicator writes: Four years ago, the W3C began standardizing Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME. Several organizations, including the EFF, have argued against DRM within web browsers. Earlier this year, after the W3C leadership officially recommended EME despite failing to reach consensus, the EFF filed the first-ever official appeal that the decision be formally polled for consensus. That appeal has been denied, and for the first time the W3C is endorsing a standard against the consensus of its members.

In response, the EFF published their resignation from the body: "The W3C is a body that ostensibly operates on consensus. Nevertheless, as the coalition in support of a DRM compromise grew and grew -- and the large corporate members continued to reject any meaningful compromise -- the W3C leadership persisted in treating EME as topic that could be decided by one side of the debate. [...] Today, the W3C bequeaths an legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people. Effective today, EFF is resigning from the W3C."
Jeff Jaffe, CEO of W3C said: "I know from my conversations that many people are not satisfied with the result. EME proponents wanted a faster decision with less drama. EME critics want a protective covenant. And there is reason to respect those who want a better result. But my personal reflection is that we took the appropriate time to have a respectful debate about a complex set of issues and provide a result that will improve the web for its users. My main hope, though, is that whatever point-of-view people have on the EME covenant issue, that they recognize the value of the W3C community and process in arriving at a decision for an inherently contentious issue. We are in our best light when we are facilitating the debate on important issues that face the web."
DRM

HTML5 DRM Standard Is a Go (arstechnica.com) 138

Artem Tashkinov writes: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the industry body that oversees development of HTML and related Web standards, has today published the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification as a Recommendation, marking its final blessing as an official Web standard. Final approval came after the W3C's members voted 58.4 percent to approve the spec, 30.8 percent to oppose, with 10.8 percent abstaining. EME provides a standard interface for DRM protection of media delivered through the browser. EME is not itself a DRM scheme; rather, it defines how Web content can work with third-party Content Decryption Modules (CDMs) that handle the proprietary decryption and rights-management portion. The principal groups favoring the development of EME have been streaming media companies such as Netflix and Microsoft, Google, and Apple, companies that both develop browsers and operate streaming media services. Following the announcement, EFF wrote a letter to W3C director, chief executive officer and team, in which it expressed its disappointment and said it was resignation from the W3C.
The Almighty Buck

Flush With Cash: Swiss Toilets Mysteriously Stuffed With 500-Euro Bills (npr.org) 183

Someone in the Swiss city of Geneva has been trying to flush tens of thousands of euros down toilets. From a report: The bathrooms at a branch of the UBS bank in Geneva, as well as in three nearby restaurants, had pipes stuffed with 500-euro bills that had apparently been cut up with scissors and flushed down the toilets. The mysterious misplaced funds were first reported by a Swiss newspaper, and local authorities have confirmed the incident to multiple media outlets. Each individual bill is worth nearly $600. Collectively, the destroyed bank notes were worth tens of thousands of dollars. The Geneva Prosecutor's Office tells Bloomberg it has launched an investigation into the bathroom bills. Switzerland is not in the European Union, although it is entirely surrounded by EU member countries, and the nation's currency is the Swiss franc.
Social Networks

Facebook Shares Details Of Russia-Bought Ads With US Investigators (cnn.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information. Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller's office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election...

As CNN reported Thursday, Facebook is still not sure whether pro-Kremlin groups may have made other ad buys intended to influence American politics that it simply hasn't discovered yet. It is even possible that unidentified ad buys may still exist on the social media network today.

Chrome

Google Chrome Will No Longer Autoplay Content With Sound In January 2018 (venturebeat.com) 81

Starting next year, Google Chrome will only autoplay a given piece of content when the media won't play sound or the user has indicated an interest in the media. The company was experimenting with such an option last month, but now it looks to be part of the browser's roadmap. VentureBeat reports: Chrome 63 will add a new user option to completely disable audio for individual sites. This site-muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing users to customize when and where audio will play. Chrome 64 will take the controls to the next level. By this version, Google's browser will allow autoplay to occur only when users want media to play. Here is Google's timeline for making autoplaying sound more consistent with user expectations in Chrome: September 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Beta, begin collecting Media Engagement Index (MEI) data in Chrome 62 Canary and Dev; October 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Stable, autoplay policies available in Chrome 63 Canary and Dev; December 2017: Autoplay policies available in Chrome 64 Beta; January 2018: Autoplay policies available in 64 Stable.
Google

Social Media Site Gab Sues Google For Antitrust Violations Following Ban From Play Store (washingtonpost.com) 164

The social media site Gab.ai is accusing Google of violating federal antitrust laws when the tech giant booted Gab from the Google Play Store, according to lawsuit filed this week. From a report: The legal action is the latest salvo in an escalating battle between right-leaning technologists and leaders against Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Google. Gab alleges in the lawsuit that "Google deprives competitors, on a discriminatory basis, of access to the App Store, which an essential facility or resource." "Google is the biggest threat to the free flow of information," Gab chief executive Andrew Torba said in a statement. "Gab started to fight against the big tech companies in the marketplace, and their monopolistic conduct has forced us to bring the fight to the courtroom." Alternative source.
Businesses

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."
Businesses

Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete (fastcompany.com) 340

Elizabeth Segran, writing for FastCompany: While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store -- or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles -- still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you're bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer. Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you've picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the "store." Bodega's logo is a cat, a nod to the popular bodega cat meme on social media -- although if the duo gets their way, real felines won't have brick-and-mortar shops to saunter around and take naps in much longer. "The vision here is much bigger than the box itself," McDonald says. "Eventually, centralized shopping locations won't be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you."
Facebook

The Fake News Machine: Inside a Town Gearing Up for 2020 (cnn.com) 225

CNN has a story on Veles, riverside town in Macedonia, which back in the day was known to make porcelain for the whole of Yugoslavia. But now, as an investigation by the news outlet has found, it makes fake news. Veles has become home to dozens of website operators who churn out bogus stories designed to attract the attention of Americans. Each click adds cash to their bank accounts. From the report: The scale is industrial: Over 100 websites were tracked here during the final weeks of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, producing fake news that mostly favored Republican candidate for President Donald Trump. One of the shadowy industry's pioneers is a soft-spoken law school dropout. Worried that his online accounts could be shut down, the 24-year-old asked to be known only as Mikhail. He takes on a different persona at night, prowling the internet as "Jesica," an American who frequently posts pro-Trump memes on Facebook. The website and Facebook page that "Jesica" runs caters to conservative readers in the U.S. The stories are political -- and often wrong on the facts. But that doesn't concern Mikhail. "I don't care, because the people are reading," he said. "At 22, I was earning more than someone [in Macedonia] will ever learn in his entire life." He claims to have earned up to $2,500 a day from advertising on his website, while the average monthly income in Macedonia is just $426. The profits come primarily from ad services such as Google's AdSense, which place targeted advertisements around the web. Each click sends a little bit of cash back to the content creator. Mikhail says he has used his profits to buy a house and put his younger sister through school. [...] That site was blocked a few months ago after Facebook and Google started cracking down on fake news sites. Mikhail is now retooling his operation, with his sights set firmly on the 2020 presidential election.
Businesses

Amazon's Whole Foods Price Cuts Brought 25 Percent Jump In Shoppers (bloomberg.com) 94

According to Foursquare Labs, which compiled location information from shoppers' mobile devices during the first two days after Amazon completed its acquisition of Whole Foods and compared the data with the same period a week earlier, the electronic commerce company boosted customer traffic to Whole Foods by 25 percent. Bloomberg reports: Amazon acquired the upscale chain last month for $13.7 billion, a move that has brought turmoil to the supermarket industry and sent shares of grocery rivals tumbling. The same day it completed the acquisition, the e-commerce giant cut prices by as much as 43 percent on a range of items. Organic fuji apples were marked down to $1.99 a pound from $3.49 a pound, for instance. Organic avocados dropped to $1.99 each from $2.79. The traffic data is an optimistic sign that Amazon can succeed in the brick-and-mortar world. In some areas, the jump in customers was dramatic. At stores in Chicago, 35 percent more shoppers visited Whole Foods stores, Foursquare found. It's not surprising that curious shoppers visited the stores immediately after the takeover, particularly after a bevy of media coverage, according to Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. What's left to be seen is whether they will start consistently shopping more at Whole Foods stores.
Encryption

Virginia Scraps Electronic Voting Machines Hackers Destroyed At DefCon (theregister.co.uk) 194

Following the DefCon demonstration in July that showed how quickly Direct Recording Electronic voting equipment could be hacked, Virginia's State Board of Elections has decided it wants to replace their electronic voting machines in time for the gubernatorial election due on November 7th, 2017. According to The Register, "The decision was announced in the minutes of the Board's September 8th meeting: 'The Department of Elections officially recommends that the State Board of Elections decertify all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touchscreen) voting equipment." From the report: With the DefCon bods showing some machines shared a single hard-coded password, Virginia directed the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) to audit the machines in use in the state (the Accuvote TSX, the Patriot, and the AVC Advantage). None passed the test. VITA told the board "each device analyzed exhibited material risks to the integrity or availability of the election process," and the lack of a paper audit trail posed a significant risk of lost votes. Local outlet The News Leader notes that many precincts had either replaced their machines already, or are in the process of doing so. The election board's decision will force a change-over on the 140 precincts that haven't replaced their machines, covering 190,000 of Virginia's ~8.4m population.
China

Bitcoin Price Falls Again On Reports that China is Shutting Down Local Exchanges (cnbc.com) 115

China's clampdown on cryptocurrencies has reportedly taken a new direction -- to close down local bitcoin exchanges. From a report: Initial reports from Chinese media that the government plans to close down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges have seen the virtual coin shed more than $100 since Friday. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal also reported Monday that that the country is planning to shut down digital currency exchanges. Bitcoin sunk to a low of $4,241 in late trading in the U.K. Friday, and reached a low of $4,108 on Monday, according to Coindesk data. It climbed to a record high of $5,000 dollars a little over a week ago, and has shot up by nearly 350 percent since the start of the year. The latest reported crackdown follows a decision by Chinese regulators -- including the People's Bank of China (PBOC) -- to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs). ICOs are a means of raising funds by selling off new digital tokens. A crackdown on ICOs would not affect the original cryptocurrency directly, but bitcoin still dropped more than $1,000 over a period of three days. China's latest move to shut down local exchanges would mark a new direction for the country in its efforts to regulate the market.
Canada

Kodi Is Fighting Trademark Trolls (betanews.com) 92

Friday the makers of an open source media player Kodi called out trademark trolls who they say have "attempted to register the Kodi name in various countries outside the United States with the goal of earning money off the Kodi name without doing any work beyond sending threatening letters." BrianFagioli shares an article in which BetaNews quotes Kodi community and project manager Nathan Betzen: "At least one trademark troll has so far not agreed to voluntarily release their grasp on their registration of our trademark and is actively blackmailing hardware vendors in an entire country, trying to become as rich as possible off of our backs and the backs of Kodi volunteers everywhere. His name is Geoff Gavora. He had written several letters to the Foundation over the years, expressing how important XBMC and Kodi were to him and his sales. And then, one day, for whatever reason, he decided to register the Kodi trademark in his home country of Canada. We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case," says Nathan Betzen, Kodi Project Manager.

"Instead, companies like Mygica and our sponsor Minix have been delisted by Gavora on Amazon, so that only Gavora's hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store. Now, if you do a search for Kodi on Amazon.ca, there's a very real chance that every box you see is giving Gavora money to advertise that they can run what should be the entirely free and open Kodi. Gavora and his company are behaving in true trademark troll fashion."

Government

Should Congress Force Social Media To Investigate Foreign Propaganda Trolls? (politico.com) 266

"I fought foreign propaganda for the FBI," writes a former special agent from its Counterintelligence Division. Now an associate dean at Yale Law School, he's warning that "the tools we had won't work anymore." An anonymous reader quotes Politico: The bureau is now faced with huge private companies, like Facebook and Twitter, which are ostensibly neutral and have no professional or ethical obligation to vet the material they distribute. Further, foreign intelligence service propaganda agents are no longer human operatives on American soil -- they are invisible "trolls," often operating from a foreign country and behind social media accounts that make them impossible for the FBI to approach directly. Or, in the case of so-called bots -- software programs designed to simulate humans -- they might not even be people at all... [S]ocial media platforms can reach an almost limitless audience, often within days or hours, more or less for free: Russia's Facebook ads alone reached between 23 million and 70 million viewers.

Without any direct way to investigate and identify the source of the private accounts that generate this "fake news," there's literally nothing the FBI can do to stop a propaganda operation that can occur on such a massive scale... But Congress could pass legislation that requires social media companies to cooperate with counterintelligence in the same ways they do with law enforcement. For example, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requires telecommunications companies to design their digital networks in such a way that would permit wiretaps for criminal cases. Similarly, requiring social media platforms to develop ways to vet and authenticate foreign users and proactively report potential bots to the FBI would enable the FBI to identify perception management operations as they are occurring. In addition to monitoring these specific FIS-based accounts, the FBI could publicly expose the source of particular accounts, ads or news...

"At this point, we have no choice: It's clear that our current counterintelligence strategy hasn't caught up to the age of asymmetrical information warfare," the former counterintelligence agent concludes. "Until it does, we'll be silently allowing our freedoms to be manipulated...."
Social Networks

Why It's So Hard To Trust Facebook (cnn.com) 139

Brian Stelter, writing for CNN: Why won't Facebook show the public the propagandistic ads that a so-called Russian troll farm bought last year to target American voters? That lack of transparency is troubling to many observers. "Show us the ads Zuck!" Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jason Calacanis wrote on Twitter when The Washington Post reported on the surreptitious ad buys on Wednesday. Calacanis said Facebook was "profiting off fake news," echoing a widely held criticism of the social network. It was only the latest example of Facebook's credibility problem. For a business based on the concept of friendship, it's proving to be a hard company to trust. On the business side, Facebook's metrics for advertisers have been error-prone, to say the least. Analysts and reporters have repeatedly uncovered evidence of faulty data and measurement mistakes. Facebook's opaqueness has also engendered mistrust in the political arena. Conservative activists have accused the company of censoring right-wing voices and stories. Liberal activists have raised alarms about its exploitation of personal information to target ads. And the news business is worried about the spread of bogus stories and hoaxes on the site. Some critics have even taken to calling Facebook a "surveillance company," seeking to reframe the business the social network is in -- not networking but ad targeting based on monitoring of users. Over at The Verge, Casey Newton documents inconsistencies in Facebook's public remarks over its role in the outcome of the presidential election last year. Newton says Facebook's shifting Russian ads stories and unwillingness to disclose information citing laws (which seem to imply otherwise) are damaging its credibility.
Businesses

VR Company Upload Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (techcrunch.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Upload, formerly UploadVR, the virtual reality startup at the center of a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit filed earlier this year, has settled the case with its former employee and is aiming to put the ensuing damage behind it. The lawsuit, filed against the startup and its co-founders by former director of digital and social media Elizabeth Scott, alleged that the company had sought to create a "boy's club" environment and described "rampant" sexual behavior in the office, allegations that co-founders Will Mason and Taylor Freeman denied as "entirely without merit." The lawsuit is now over, according to people familiar with the matter, and though the terms of the agreement were undisclosed, some in the virtual reality community feel that the company has dodged a bullet in reaching some conclusion over the litigation.

"The matter has been concluded," was Upload's official statement. Neither Scott, nor her legal counsel, responded to a request for comment for this story. Upload has also released the following statement around the conclusion of the legal case. "Our primary focus at Upload is education, which we believe is the key to growing the mixed reality ecosystem. We are deeply committed to creating an inclusive community to empower the pioneers building the future."

Social Networks

67% of Americans Use Social Media To Get Some of their News 71

Shan Wang, writing for Neiman Lab: Sixty-seven percent of Americans report getting some of their news via social media at some point, according to a Pew Research survey of just under 5,000 U.S. adults conducted last month and published Thursday. That overall percentage is only up slightly from 62 percent in 2016, in the run-up to the November election. But among specific demographics, using social media for news has increased: 74 percent of non-white U.S. adults now get news from social media, up from 64 percent of that group who got news that way in 2016. Fifty-five percent of Americans 50 and older say the have gotten news from social media, up from 45 percent (older people are also driving the increasing percentage of people who get news via mobile). Facebook is still the dominant social media source for news. But when Pew looked at the percentage of users on each social media platform who were using it for news, it was Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube that saw increases (remember that user bases are vastly different sizes, from YouTube to Facebook to Tumblr to Twitter):
Earth

Plastic Fibers Found In 83 Percent of World's Tap Water, Study Reveals (theguardian.com) 210

Robotron23 writes: Research published by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism group, has revealed that microplastics have contaminated high proportions of drinking water and bottled water. Samples from the United States tested positive in 94% of instances, while Europe's contamination averages around 72%. Tests were undertaken at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, with lead researcher Dr. Anne Marie Mahon noting the risk of plastics carrying bacteria, and commenting: "In terms of fibers, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems." As for the culprit, the report mentions the atmosphere as one obvious source, "with fibers shed by the everyday wear and tear of clothes and carpets." Another potential source is tumble dryers, "with almost 80% of U.S. households having dryers that usually vent to the open air." Overall, the investigation by Orb Media found that 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers.
Verizon

Verizon Up Offers Rewards in Exchange For Customers' Personal Information (wsj.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new Verizon rewards program, Verizon Up, provides credits that wireless subscribers can use for concert tickets, movie premieres and phone upgrades. But it comes with a catch: Customers must give the carrier access to their web-browsing history, app usage and location data, which Verizon says it uses to personalize the rewards and deliver targeted advertising as its customers browse the web. The trade-off is part of Verizon's effort to build a digital advertising business to compete with web giants Facebook and Google, which often already possess much of the same customer information. Even though Congress earlier this year dismantled tough privacy regulations on telecommunications providers, Verizon still wants customers to opt-in to its most comprehensive advertising program, called Verizon Selects. Data collected under the program is shared with Oath, the digital-media unit Verizon created when it bought AOL and Yahoo. Since access to data from customers could make it easier to tailor ads to their liking, Verizon hopes the information will help it gain advertising revenue to offset sluggish growth in its cellular business.See a current list of Verizon plans here.
Google

Android One Is Anything But Dead, Google Reaffirms With Xiaomi Mi A1 (ndtv.com) 97

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google executives shared the stage with Xiaomi chiefs at a media event in New Delhi on Tuesday as the Chinese phone maker unveiled its "new flagship" Mi A1 smartphone. Google's presence at the event was essential. Xiaomi's Mi A1 is the latest phone to be launched under Google's Android One program, a three-year-old initiative from Google, which in the past year has been presumed dead by many. It's anything but that, Google executives said. The Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080x1920 pixels) display. It also offers a duo of 12-megapixel rear cameras, one with telephoto capability and 2X optical zoom feature. On the front, for the selfie enthusiasts is a 5-megapixel shooter. The dual-SIM capable Mi A1 smartphone houses a Snapdragon 625 octa-core SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage, IR blaster, a 3080mAh battery, a fingerprint scanner, modems for 4G LTE bands in its gold- and black-coloured thin, full-metal unibody form factor. It is priced at $235, and will be available in dozens of markets including Mexico, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Singapore.

Slashdot Top Deals