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Microsoft

LinkedIn Apologizes For Trying To Connect Everyone In Real Life (vocativ.com) 70

LinkedIn has apologized for a vague new update that told some iPhone users its app would begin sharing their data with nearby users without further explanation. From a report: The update prompted outrage on Twitter after cybersecurity expert Rik Ferguson received a strange alert when he opened the resume app to read a new message: "LinkedIn would like to make data available to nearby Bluetooth devices even when you're not using the app." That gave Ferguson, vice president of research at the cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, a handful of concerns, he told Vocativ. Among them: "the lack of specificity, which data, when, under what conditions, to which devices, why does it need to happen when I'm not using the app, what are the benefits to me, where is the feature announcement and explanation, why wasn't it listed in the app update details." Reached for comment, LinkedIn said it's a mistake -- that some iPhone users were accidentally subject to undeveloped test feature the company is still working on.
Businesses

Plastc Swiped $9 Million From Backers, Now It Plans To File For Bankruptcy and Shut Down (theverge.com) 167

Plastc announced today that it is planning to file for bankruptcy and will shut down on April 20, 2017, after raising more than $9 million through preorders and shipping to no backers. "Plastc launched in 2014 with the promise of shipping a single card that could digitally hold 20 credit or debit cards that a user could switch between," reports The Verge. From the report: With that, all backers' money is lost, and no Plastc cards will ship. Plastc announced the news on its website today along with the fact that all its employees have been laid off. Its customer care and social media channels have also been shut down. The company explains that it thought it would close $3.5 million in funding in February this year, but that fell through. Another possible investment deal of $6.75 million fell through, too. What's not clear is how more than $9 million wasn't sufficient to get backers their orders. Backers will likely have questions and want their money back, but with no one to turn to from Plastc, they'll likely be out the cash.
Canada

Canada Rules To Uphold Net Neutrality (www.cbc.ca) 65

According to a new ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator, internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person's data cap. The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers. CBC.ca reports: "Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume." The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec. Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form -- nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.
China

China To Question Apple About Live-Streaming Apps On App Store That Violate Internet Regulations (theguardian.com) 31

Three Chinese government agencies are planning to tell Apple to "tighten up checks" on live-streaming software offered on its app store, which can be used to violate internet regulation in the country. "Law enforcement officers had already met with Apple representatives over live-streaming services, [state news agency Xinhua reported], but did not provide details of the meetings," reports The Guardian. From the report: The inquiry appears to be focused on third-party apps available for download through Apple's online marketplace. The company did not respond to requests for comment. China operates the world's largest internet censorship regime, blocking a host of foreign websites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but the authorities have struggled to control an explosion in popularity of live-streaming video apps. As part of the inquiry into live-streaming, three Chinese websites -- toutiao.com, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com -- were already found to have violated internet regulations, and had broadcast content that violated Chinese law, including providing "pornographic content," the Xinhua report said. Pornography is banned in China. The three sites were told to increase oversight of live-broadcasting services, user registration and "the handling of tips-offs." Two of the websites, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com, were under formal investigation and may have their cases transferred to the police for criminal prosecutions, the Xinhua report said. Casting a wide net, the regulations state that apps cannot "engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others."
Social Networks

Facebook Owns Four Out of the Five Most Downloaded Apps Worldwide (thenextweb.com) 54

An anonymous reader shares a report: Facebook continues to storm the numbers as the company has claimed four out of the five spots for the most downloaded apps across the globe during the last quarter. Interestingly, Netflix still lords over everyone as far as revenue goes. New research by app analytics firm Sensor Tower reveals that WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat were the most downloaded apps for the first three months of this year. While the numbers differed across the App Store and Google Play, one thing both platforms shared is that Facebook owned four out of the top five spots for the most downloaded apps worldwide. While Messenger topped the App Store download charts, Facebook headed the race on Google Play.
Businesses

How Tilt Went From Hot $375 Million Startup To Fire Sale (fastcompany.com) 167

tedlistens writes: Not long ago, social payments company Tilt seemed to have it all -- a hot idea; cool, young founders with Y Combinator pedigrees; and $67 million in funding -- not to mention a $375 million valuation. But Tilt was more successful at cultivating its user growth and fun, frat-tastic office culture than at nailing down a viable business model. When Tilt finally ran out of cash, the party ended with the company's sale at fire-sale prices to fellow Y Combinator alums Airbnb in an aqui-hire deal. Where did it all go wrong? Here's an excerpt from the report: "Tilt was based on the premise that 'something like PayPal and Facebook would collide,' Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara says. The company aspired to be a social network for money -- instead of sharing photos and videos, users exchanged digital cash for birthday ragers and beer runs. During Tilt's early years, the pitch was simple, and carefully calibrated for Silicon Valley boardrooms: 'Let's prove that we can dominate the globe.' [...] By early 2013, millions in venture dollars were pouring into Tilt's coffers. Investors were lured by the same strong social metrics (viral coefficient, for example, a measure of user growth) that had marked Facebook as a winner. But the hopes embedded in Tilt's $375 million valuation came crashing down to earth last year. Beshara hadn't built a business; instead, he had manufactured a classic Silicon Valley mirage. While investors were throwing millions of dollars at the promise of a glittering business involving 'social' and 'money,' their Mark Zuckerberg-in-the-making was basking in the sunny glow of Bay Area praise and enjoying the ride with his bros. Revenue was not a top priority -- a remarkable oversight for any company, and a particularly galling one for a payments company. Eventually, with cash running low, Tilt went looking for a buyer..."
Facebook

Facebook Adds a Login Shortcut To Other Android Apps (engadget.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a report: Today at F8, Facebook announced it's giving the developers of third-party Android apps the ability to recognize if you've already linked a service with the social network. Soon when you download or reinstall something like Pinterest, you won't have to wonder what your password is if you've already installed Facebook. The supported app will prompt you to log in via the social network. The social network is also giving third-party developers the opportunity to use Facebook as an account recovery solution for when you forget your password.
Facebook

Facebook Launches Augmented Reality Camera Effects Developer Platform (techcrunch.com) 9

From a report: Facebook will rely on an army of outside developers to contribute augmented reality image filters and interactive experiences to its new Camera Effects platform. Later today the first effects will become availabe inside Facebook's Camera feature on smartphones, but the Camera Effects platform is designed to eventually be compatible with future augmented reality hardware such as eyeglasses.
Government

Trump Administration Kills Open.Gov, Will Not Release White House Visitor Logs (techdirt.com) 268

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: It will never be said that the Trump presidency began with a presumption of openness. His pre-election refusal to release his tax returns set a bit of precedent in that regard. The immediate post-election muffling of government agency social media accounts made the administration's opacity goals um clearer. So, in an unsurprising move, the Trump administration will be doing the opposite of the Obama administration. The American public will no longer have the privilege of keeping tabs on White House visitors. TIME reports: "The Trump Administration will not disclose logs of those who visit the White House complex, breaking with his predecessor, the White House announced Friday. White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy was due to 'the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.' Instead, the Trump Administration is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are 'presidential records' and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act." So, to further distance himself from the people he serves (and the people who elected him), Trump and his administration have shut down the transparency portal put in place by the previous Commander-in-Chief: "White House officials said the Administration is ending the contract for Open.gov, the Obama-era site that hosted the visitor records along with staff financial disclosures, salaries, and appointments. An official said it would save $70,000 through 2020 and that the removed disclosures, salaries and appointments would be integrated into WhiteHouse.gov in the coming months."
Crime

Researchers Find 25,000 Domains Used In Tech Support Scams (onthewire.io) 85

An anonymous reader writes: Three doctoral students at Stony Brook University spent eight months analyzing internet scammers who pose as remote tech support workers (usually pretending to be from Microsoft of Apple). Their research revealed more than 25,000 scam domains and thousands of different scam phone numbers. "Although victims of these scams can be anywhere, the researchers found that 85.4% of the IP addresses in these scams were located across different regions of India," reports On The Wire, "with 9.7% located in the United States and 4.9% in Costa Rica. Scammers typically asked users for an average of $291, with prices ranging from $70 to $1,000."

The researchers even called 60 of the con artists to study their technique, and concluded most were working in large, organized call centers. They use remote access tools, and in fact two popular tools were used in 81% of the scams, according to the paper. "We found that, on average, a scammer takes 17 minutes, using multiple social engineering techniques mostly based on misrepresenting OS messages, to convince users of their infections..."

Businesses

Embarrassing Ex-Employee Complaint Against Snapchat Unsealed (variety.com) 85

"Saying it had 'nothing to hide,' the company behind Snapchat released an unredacted version of a lawsuit filed against it by a former employee that claims investors and advertisers were misled about usage data." And one allegation -- about a meeting with the company's 25-year-old CEO about flawed user metrics and low adoption in India in Spain -- is particularly embarrassing. Pompliano, who had just been hired away from Facebook, contends that he presented methods to address the issue, but that Evan Spiegel, the company's CEO, abruptly cut him off. "This app is only for rich people," Spiegel said, according to Pompliano. "I don't want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain"... Pompliano claims that Spiegel then met with two other executives and determined that "Mr. Pompliano presented a risk to Snapchat's IPO."
It may have been a flip remark, but the lawsuit also alleges two data analysts confided to Pompliano that Snapchat had "an institutional aversion to looking at user data," where its efforts showed "utter incompetence". The former employee -- who was fired after three weeks -- alleges that Snapchat inflated the rate of completed registrations and the number of users who stayed longer than seven days.

Snap originally said the lawsuit should remain redacted because it contained damaging trade secrets that would help its competitors, but now Snap attorneys are accusing Pompliano and his attorneys of "just making things up... The simple fact is that he knows exactly nothing about Snap's current metrics." Variety reports that Pompliano's attorney "said that Snap withdrew its effort to seal the complaint because the company knew it would lose."
Government

GOP Congressman Defending Privacy Vote: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet' (washingtonpost.com) 302

Wisconsin congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. defended his decision to help repeal broadband privacy rules by telling a constituent, "Nobody's got to use the Internet." An anonymous reader quotes the 73-year-old congressman: "And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet... Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don't think it's my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice... That's what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives."
"The congressman then moved on to the next question," reports The Washington Post, but criticism of his remarks appeared on social media. One activist complained that the congressman's position was don't use the internet if you don't want your information sold to advertisers -- drawing a clarification from the congressman's office.

"Actually he said that nobody has to use the Internet. They have a choice. Big difference."
Facebook

Facebook Targets 30,000 Fake France Accounts Before Election (go.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Facebook says it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country's presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation. The company said Thursday it's trying to "reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts." It said its efforts "enabled us to take action" against the French accounts and that it is removing sites with the highest traffic. Facebook and French media are also running fact-checking programs in France to combat misleading information, especially around the campaign for the two-round April 23-May 7 presidential election. European authorities have also pressured Facebook and Twitter to remove extremist propaganda or other postings that violate European hate speech or other laws.
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
AI

AI Programs Exhibit Racial and Gender Biases, Research Reveals (theguardian.com) 384

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: An artificial intelligence tool that has revolutionized the ability of computers to interpret everyday language has been shown to exhibit striking gender and racial biases. The findings raise the specter of existing social inequalities and prejudices being reinforced in new and unpredictable ways as an increasing number of decisions affecting our everyday lives are ceded to automatons. In the past few years, the ability of programs such as Google Translate to interpret language has improved dramatically. These gains have been thanks to new machine learning techniques and the availability of vast amounts of online text data, on which the algorithms can be trained. However, as machines are getting closer to acquiring human-like language abilities, they are also absorbing the deeply ingrained biases concealed within the patterns of language use, the latest research reveals. Joanna Bryson, a computer scientist at the University of Bath and a co-author, warned that AI has the potential to reinforce existing biases because, unlike humans, algorithms may be unequipped to consciously counteract learned biases. The research, published in the journal Science, focuses on a machine learning tool known as "word embedding," which is already transforming the way computers interpret speech and text.
Facebook

Instagram's Snapchat Clone Is Now More Popular Than Snapchat -- and It's Only 8 Months Old (cnbc.com) 50

Facebook's top Snapchat clone Instagram Stories has hit 200 million daily active users, surpassing the last count of 161 million that Snapchat announced alongside its IPO. Instagram Stories launched in August, hit 100 million dailies in October, and 150 million in January, so it's hardly slowing as it grows. Meanwhile, Instagram is getting faster at copying even Snapchat's most technologically advanced features with a series of global iOS and Android updates. A report adds: Along with this announcement, Facebook is introducing new 'sticker' tools for Instagram, to make it a more appealing alternative to Snapchat, and more engaging for its users. Now Instagram's users can turn their selfies into stickers, which they'll be able to easily share, or pin within a video. The app is also launching new Geostickers for Chicago, London, Madrid and Tokyo to apply over photos. The stickers have been designed by artists from the respective cities, enabling users to tap to learn more about the art.
Privacy

VPN Providers Report Huge Increase In Downloads, Usage Since Privacy Rules Were Repealed (ibtimes.com) 67

An anonymous reader writes: A number of major VPN providers reported a significant increase in subscriptions, downloads, and traffic from Americans since the U.S. Congress voted to repeal the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules that would have mandated internet service providers get user permission before collecting information. The International Business Times reports that "several popular VPN providers reported a more than 50 percent increase in downloads." VPN provider ExpressVPN said they "experienced a 105 percent increase in traffic from the U.S. and a 97 percent spike in sales" since the repeal. Additionally, "KeepSolid, the New York-based company behind VPNUnlimited, noted a 32 percent increase in purchases and growth of 49 percent in total downloads," reports IBT. "The company also reports having a considerable amount of increased engagement via social media regarding user privacy." Have you taken any privacy measures since Congress voted to repeal ISP privacy rules? If you use a VPN, which provider do you recommend and why?
Twitter

Twitter Allegedly Deleting Negative Tweets About United Airlines' Passenger Abuse (thenextweb.com) 233

New submitter dooode writes: As you would have read, United just had another Nazi moment where they had to "re-accommodate" a customer using some (not so gentle) force. The social web seems to have been taken by a storm by this incident. But suddenly people are noticing their tweets are being deleted -- some of them merely status questions. Does twitter make money (read bribes) to delete negative tweets? What do you feel about it? The Next Web adds that "some of the allegedly deleted tweets did not directly mention the incident with the forcibly removed passenger." On the flip side, "some of the initial tweets exposing United Airlines' abusive treatment of passengers are still very much present and actively being reshared on the platform." It's possible that the "allegedly deleted tweets" initially appeared as replies to now-deleted tweets, but TNW says they contacted several users who rejected that premise, "claiming the missing posts were standard tweets."
AI

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Lays Out Nightmare Scenario Where AI Runs the Financial World (techworld.com) 131

The architect of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has talked about some of his concerns for the internet over the coming years, including a nightmarish scenario where artificial intelligence (AI) could become the new 'masters of the universe' by creating and running their own companies. From an article: Masters of the universe is a reference to Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, regarding the men (and they were men) who started racking up multi-million dollar salaries and a great deal of influence from their finance roles on Wall Street and in London during the computerised trading boom pre-Black Monday. Berners-Lee said, "So when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that's a big one. Or which companies to acquire and when AI starts creating its own companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies. So you have survival of the fittest going on between these AI companies until you reach the point where you wonder if it becomes possible to understand how to ensure they are being fair, and how do you describe to a computer what that means anyway?"

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