Businesses

If Data Is the New Oil, Are Tech Companies Robbing Us Blind? (digitaltrends.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.

In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.

Movies

Amazon Slashes Prices on 4K Content in Response To Apple TV 4K's Launch (theverge.com) 24

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the many announcements at Apple's keynote a couple weeks ago was that 4K movies would be added to iTunes at the same price as HD content. Previously purchased HD movies would also be upgraded to 4K for free, though for streaming only. In response, Amazon Video has drastically slashed the prices of its own 4K content to match iTunes. As Pocket Lint notes, Amazon Video's 4K selection is not only limited in comparison to Apple's, but was incredibly expensive with purchases running over $30. (This price was comparable to services like Vudu and Google, but Apple's worked out deals to offer 4K HDR movies at $19.99.) Over the weekend, it appears prices for 4K titles on Amazon Video are now starting at around $5, with newer releases in the range of $7 to $19.
Government

President Donald Trump and His Daughter Ivanka To Unveil a New Federal Computer Science Initiative With Major Tech Backers (recode.net) 250

From a report: President Donald Trump will issue a new directive Monday to supercharge the U.S. government's support for science, tech, engineering and mathematics, including coding education, three sources familiar with the White House's thinking told Recode. To start, Trump is set to sign a presidential memorandum at the White House later today that tasks the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to so-called STEM fields, as the administration seeks to train workers for high-demand computer-science jobs of the future. And on Tuesday, Trump's daughter and advisor, Ivanka, is expected to head to Detroit, where she will join business leaders for an event unveiling a series of private-sector commitments -- from Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Quicken Loans and others -- meant to boost U.S. coding and computer-science classes and programs, the sources said.
Red Hat Software

Analyst: Enterprises Trust Red Hat Because It 'Makes Open Source Boring' (redmonk.com) 101

Tech analyst James Governor reports on what he learned from Red Hat's "Analyst Day": So it turns out Red Hat is pretty good at being Red Hat. By that I mean Red Hat sticks to the knitting, carries water and chops wood, and generally just does a good job of packaging open source technology for enterprise adoption. It's fashionable these days to decry open source -- "it's not a business". Maybe not for you, but for Red Hat it sure is. Enterprises trust Red Hat precisely because it makes open source boring. Exciting and cool, on the other hand, often means getting paged in the middle of the night. Enterprise people generally don't like that kind of thing...

Red Hat remains an anomaly -- it makes money in open source. It has new revenue streams opening up. It is well positioned to keep doing the basics, but also now have a conversation with the C-suite about transformation.

The article notes the popularity of OpenShift, Red Hat's Kubernetes distribution for managing container-based applications. (OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat's on-premises private PaaS product, now has 400 paying enterprise customers). And it also applauds Red Hat's 2016 launch of Open Innovation Labs -- a enterprise consulting service "to jumpstart innovation and software development initiatives using open source technology and DevOps methods."
Education

Chicago School Official: US IT Jobs Offshored Because 'We Weren't Making Our Own' Coders 255

theodp writes: In a slick new video, segments of which were apparently filmed looking out from Google's Chicago headquarters giving it a nice high-tech vibe, Chicago Public Schools' CS4ALL staffers not-too-surprisingly argue that creating technology is "a power that everyone needs to have."

In the video, the Director of Computer Science and IT Education for the nation's third largest school district offers a take on why U.S. IT jobs were offshored that jibes nicely with the city's new computer science high school graduation requirement. From the transcript: "People still talk about it's all offshored, it's all in India and you know, there are some things that are there but they don't even realize some of the reasons that they went there in the first place is because we weren't making our own."
Google

Google AMP Flaw Exploited By Russian Hackers Targeting Journalists (salon.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: Russian hacktivist group Fancy Bear (also referred to as APT28, Sofacy, and Strontium) has been using a flaw in Google's caching of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to phish targets, Salon reports. To make matters worse, Google has been aware of the bug for almost a year but has refused to fix it... The vulnerability involves how Google delivers google.com URLs for AMP pages to its search users in an effort to speed up mobile browsing. This makes Google products more vulnerable to phishing attacks.
Conservative blogger Matthew Sheffield writes in the article that most of the known targets "appear to have been journalists who were investigating allegations of corruption or other wrongdoing by people affiliated with the Russian government." One such target was Aric Toler, a researcher and writer for the website Bellingcat who specializes in analyzing Russian media and the country's relationship with far-right groups within Europe and America... another journalist who writes frequently about Russia, David Satter, was taken in by a similar AMP phishing message... Shortly after Satter was tricked into visiting the fake website and entering his password, a program that was hosting the site logged into his Gmail account and downloaded its entire contents. Within three weeks, as the Canadian website Citizen Lab reported, the perpetrators of the hack began posting Satter's documents online, and even altering them to make opponents and critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin look bad.
Google told Salon they've "made a number of changes" to AMP -- without saying what they were. (After contacting Google for a comment, AMP's creator and tech lead blocked public comments on a Github bug report about Google's AMP implementation.) "More things ... will come on Google's side in the future and we are working with browser vendors to eventually get the origin right," AMP's tech lead wrote last February.

Jason Kint, CEO of a major web publishing trade association, told Salon that "This report of an ongoing security issue is troubling and exactly why consolidation of power and closed standards are problematic. The sooner AMP migrates to the open web and becomes less tied to the interests of Google, in every way the better."
Transportation

Civilian Drone Crashes Into a US Army Helicopter (nypost.com) 267

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: It was nearly Black Hawk down over Staten Island -- when an Army chopper was struck by an illegally flying drone over a residential neighborhood, authorities said Friday. The UA60 helicopter was flying 500 feet over Midland Beach alongside another Black Hawk, when the drone struck the chopper at around 8:15 p.m. Thursday, causing damage to its rotor blades. The uninjured pilot was able to land safely at nearby Linden Airport in New Jersey... "Our aircraft was not targeted, this was a civilian drone," said Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, the spokesman for the 82nd Airborne... "One blade was damaged [and] dented in two spots and requires replacement and there is a dented window"... The NYPD and the military are investigating -- but no arrests have been made.
The same day a federal judge struck down an ordinance banning drone flights over private property that had been passed by the city of Newton, Massachusetts. But local law enforcement warned that "an out of control helicopter could have crashed into residential homes causing numerous injuries and even fatalities," while the Post reports that drones have also crashed into a power plant and into the 40th floor of the Empire State Building.

"In February, a GoPro drone crashed through a Manhattan woman's 27th floor window and landed just feet away from her as she sat in her living room."
Patents

Cloudflare Pays First $7,500 Bounties In War Against Patent Troll (cloudflare.com) 35

Cloudflare declared war on a group of lawyers that files patent lawsuits against tech firms, by offering bounties for the discovery of patent-invalidating "prior art." Now an anonymous reader writes: On Thursday, Cloudflare announced it has paid out the first $7,500 to people who discovered documents that could help invalidate Blackbird's patents. The money is part of a $100,000 war chest the company announced this spring... The company said it is ready to launch individual challenges to specific Blackbird patents. The company believes it has enough examples of prior art on US Patent 7,797,448, "GPS-internet Linkage" and US Patent 6,453,335 (the one asserted against Cloudflare) to lodge a challenge.
"We have received more than 230 submissions so far," Cloudflare reports, "and have only just begun to scratch the surface."
Businesses

Would a T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Hurt Consumers? (dslreports.com) 95

Following a report from Reuters claiming T-Mobile is close to agreeing on a deal to merge with Sprint, an anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from DSLReports arguing how such a merger would remain "a very bad deal for consumers": The Sprint-T-Mobile merger could prove problematic for not only wireless prices, but the recent resurgence in unlimited data plans. While wireless carriers still often engage in theatrical non-price competition more often than not, the government's decision to block AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile several years ago helped spur an unprecedented period of competition in wireless (something large ISPs and their policy armies like to ignore). The end result was a brasher and more competitive T-Mobile, who lead the way on a wave of improvements in the sector culminating most recently in the return of simpler, easier unlimited data plans. The government's decision to block Sprint from acquiring T-Mobile helped keep that competition intact, something large ISPs and their policy folk would similarly like you to forget. As a result, T-Mobile has added more customers per quarter than any other wireless carrier for several years running, as the resulting competition put an end to numerous, nasty industry tactics including overcharging for international roaming, to obnoxious fees and long-term contracts. And while the new, combined company will likely still be run by current popular T-Mobile CEO John Legere, the very act of eliminating one of only four major players in the wireless market will indisputably reduce the incentive to more seriously compete on price, and could help reverse the progress the sector has seen in recent years. It's well within reason that this reduced competition could also bring back metered plans and put an end to unlimited data.
Cellphones

Super-Accurate GPS Chips Coming To Smartphones In 2018 (ieee.org) 112

schwit1 writes about a new mass-market Broadcom chip designed for the next generation of smartphones: It'll know where you are to within 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), rather than five meters. At least that's the claim chip maker Broadcom is making. It says that some of its next-generation smartphone chips will use new global positioning satellite signals to boost accuracy. In a detailed report on the announcement and how the new signals work, IEEE Spectrum says that the new chips, which are expected to appear in some phones as soon as next year, will also use half the power of today's chips and even work in cities where tower blocks often interfere with existing systems. All told, it sounds like a massive change for those who rely on their phones to find their way.
The Internet

Move Over Connected Cows, the Internet of Bees Is Here (cityam.com) 45

A new project is aiming to bring bees online by putting them in tiny "backpacks" so that scientists can track the threatened insect's behaviour and help its survival. From a report: Bees in Manchester initially will be connected to the internet using technology from Cisco to help researchers track their migration, pollination and movement, and eventually, across the UK. Sensors in hives located at a new 70,000 sq ft tech accelerator hub in the northern city called Mi-Idea, will measure the bee environment such as temperature, while the bees themselves will be tagged with RFID chips that look like tiny backpacks. All the information will be collected and made available to track online giving insight on their habitats, with the bees even providing "status updates" (albeit automated) on their whereabouts. Cisco is working on the project with the Manchester Science Partnership (MSP) and the hub is already home to six startups: Hark, an IoT data company, video platform Wattl, location data analytics startup PlaceDashboard, Steamaco, an energy technology company, IOT platform KMS and software firm Malinko.
Businesses

The Problem, Really, is This Thing Called 'Disruption' (wired.com) 106

New submitter mirandakatz writes: The word "disruption" is everywhere in tech -- and it's getting founders in trouble. Just look at what happened with Bodega last week: Had the startup not professed to be disrupting the mom-and-pop shops on every corner, it might not have landed itself in such hot water. At Backchannel, veteran Silicon Valley communications whiz Karen Wickre makes the case against "disruption," pointing out that many of today's biggest companies got their starts without claiming to completely upend an existing industry. She writes: "What if Sergey and Larry had touted Google, in 1998, as 'an unprecedented platform for disrupting global advertising?' Do you think Jeff Bezos claimed that Amazon.com was upending global retail? Netflix? Within a few months of its 1997 launch, it did not foresee the actual paradigm shift of media streaming."
DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 248

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
Security

The CCleaner Malware Fiasco Targeted at Least 20 Specific Tech Firms (wired.com) 149

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hundreds of thousands of computers getting penetrated by a corrupted version of an ultra-common piece of security software was never going to end well. But now it's becoming clear exactly how bad the results of the recent CCleaner malware outbreak may be. Researchers now believe that the hackers behind it were bent not only on mass infections, but on targeted espionage that tried to gain access to the networks of at least 20 tech firms. Earlier this week, security firms Morphisec and Cisco revealed that CCleaner, a piece of security software distributed by Czech company Avast, had been hijacked by hackers and loaded with a backdoor that evaded the company's security checks. It wound up installed on more than 700,000 computers. On Wednesday, researchers at Cisco's Talos security division revealed that they've now analyzed the hackers' "command-and-control" server to which those malicious versions of CCleaner connected. On that server, they found evidence that the hackers had attempted to filter their collection of backdoored victim machines to find computers inside the networks of 20 tech firms, including Intel, Google, Microsoft, Akamai, Samsung, Sony, VMware, HTC, Linksys, D-Link and Cisco itself. In about half of those cases, says Talos research manager Craig Williams, the hackers successfully found a machine they'd compromised within the company's network, and used their backdoor to infect it with another piece of malware intended to serve as a deeper foothold, one that Cisco now believes was likely intended for industrial espionage.
Advertising

Democrats Ask FEC To Create New Rules To Keep Foreign Influence Off Social Media Ads (thehill.com) 195

Cristina Marcos reports via The Hill: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections. The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter. "We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote. CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads. The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

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