Businesses

Google, Apple, Amazon Hit Record Lobbying Highs (axios.com) 50

An anonymous reader shares a report: The last three months brought record-high lobbying spending from four major tech companies: Google spent $5.93 million, Apple spent $2.2 million, Amazon spent $3.21 million, Uber spent $430,000. Facebook spent $2.38 million this quarter, up from the same period last year but far from a record. Microsoft's bill for the quarter was just over $2 million.
Transportation

Lyft Launches a New Self-driving Division and Will Develop Its Own Autonomous Ride-hailing Technology (techcrunch.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lyft is betting the future of the road centers on sharing autonomous vehicles. It aims to be at the forefront of that technology with a new self-driving division and a self-driving system car manufacturers could plug into their self-driving cars. The company expects to hire "hundreds" of people for the new division by the end of next year and has just signed a lease for 50,000-square-feet on the first floor of a Palo Alto facility where it plans to build out several labs and open testing spaces. The building Lyft refers to as "Level 5" will be developing its new "open self-driving platform" and a combination hardware and software system still in development. Lyft hopes auto manufacturers will then bring in a fleet of autonomous cars to its ride-hailing network. The plan is somewhat similar to one Uber announced earlier. Lyft's larger rival uses Volvo's XC90 to test its self-driving tech on the roads. Uber announced earlier this year it was also partnering with Daimler to operate self-driving cars on its network.
The Courts

Judge Rules That Government Can Force Glassdoor To Unmask Anonymous Users Online (arstechnica.com) 112

pogopop77 shares a report from Ars Technica: An appeals court will soon decide whether the U.S. government can unmask anonymous users of Glassdoor -- and the entire proceeding is set to happen in secret. Federal investigators sent a subpoena asking for the identities of more than 100 anonymous users of the business-review site Glassdoor, who apparently posted reviews of a company that's under investigation for potential fraud related to its contracting practices. The government later scaled back its demand to just eight users. Prosecutors believe these eight Glassdoor users are "third-party witnesses to certain business practices relevant to [the] investigation." The name of the company under investigation is redacted from all public briefs. Glassdoor made a compromise proposal to the government: it would notify the users in question about the government's subpoena and then provide identifying information about users who were willing to participate. The government rejected that idea. At that point, Glassdoor lawyered up and headed to court, seeking to have the subpoena thrown out. Lawyers for Glassdoor argued that its users have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously. While the company has "no desire to interfere" with the investigation, if its users were forcibly identified, the investigation "could have a chilling effect on both Glassdoor's reviewers' and readers' willingness to use glassdoor.com," states Glassdoor's motion (PDF). The government opposed the motion, though, and prevailed in district court.
Encryption

Apple Flies Top Privacy Executives Into Australia To Lobby Against Proposed Encryption Laws (patentlyapple.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Patently Apple: Last week Patently Apple posted a report titled "Australia proposed new Laws Compelling Companies like Facebook & Apple to Provide Access to Encrypted Messages." Days later, Australia's Prime Minister spoke about the encryption problem with the Australian press as noted in the video in our report. Now we're learning that Apple has flown in top executives to lobby Turnbull government on encryption laws. It sounds like a showdown is on the horizon. This is the second time this month that Apple has flown executives into Australia to lobby the government according to a Sydney publication. Apple executives met with Attorney-General George Brandis and senior staff in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office on Tuesday to discuss the company's concerns about the legal changes, which could see tech companies compelled to provide access to locked phones and third party messaging applications. Apple has argued in the meetings that as a starting point it does not want the updated laws to block tech companies from using encryption on their devices, nor for companies to have to provide decryption keys to allow access to secure communications. The company has argued that if it is compelled to provide a software "back door" into its phones to help law enforcement agencies catch criminals and terrorists, this would reduce the security for all users. It also says it has provided significant assistance to police agencies engaged in investigations, when asked. UPDATE 07/20/17: Headline has been updated to clarify that Apple is lobbying against the proposed encryption laws in Australia.
Youtube

YouTube Will Now Redirect Searches For Extremist Videos To Anti-Terrorist Playlists (tubefilter.com) 115

YouTube will return anti-terrorist playlists when users search for hateful content on the site using certain keywords pertaining to terrorism. Tubefilter.com reports: The new feature, dubbed The Redirect Method, is part of a four-prong strategy announced by Google last month to quash extremist ideologies across its platforms. The Redirect Method was developed by Jigsaw -- an Alphabet subsidiary whose mission is to counter extremism, censorship, and cyber attacks -- alongside another tech company called Moonshot CVE (which stands for "Countering Violent Extremism"). Jigsaw and Moonshot CVE developed the tech after studying, over several years, how terrorist factions like ISIS leverage technology to spread their messaging and recruit new followers. In coming weeks, YouTube says it intends to incorporate The Redirect Method into a wider set of search queries in languages beyond English, use machine learning to dynamically update search terms, work with partner NGOs to develop new anti-extremist content, and roll out the Method to Europe.
Microsoft

Apple, Google and Microsoft Are Hoarding $464 Billion In Cash (cnn.com) 248

Apple, Google and Microsoft are sitting on a mountain of cash -- and most of it is stashed far away from the taxman. Those three tech behemoths held a total of $464 billion in cash at the end of last year, according to a Moody's report published this week. From a report: Apple alone had a stunning quarter-trillion dollars of cash thanks to years of gigantic profits and few major acquisitions. That's enough money to buy Netflix three times. It's also more cash than what's sitting on the balance sheet of every major industry except tech and health care. All told, non-financial U.S. companies studied by Moody's hoarded $1.84 trillion of cash at the end of last year. That's up 11% from 2015 and nearly two and a half times the 2008 level. Roughly $1.3 trillion -- 70% of the total -- is being held overseas, where the money isn't subject to U.S. taxes. Apple, Google owner Alphabet, Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle hold 88% of their cash overseas. Moody's said the tower of money stashed abroad reflects the "negative tax consequences of permanently repatriating money to the U.S."
AI

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad (www.cbc.ca) 111

theodp writes: In A Son's Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source), James Vlahos recounts his efforts to turn the story of his father's life -- as told by his 80-year-old Dad in his final months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer -- into what Vlahos calls "a Dadbot -- a chatbot that emulates not a children's toy but the very real man who is my father." Given the limits of tech at the time (2016) and his own inexperience as a programmer, Vlahos recognized that the bot would never be more than a shadow of his real dad, but hoped to get the bot to communicate in his father's distinctive manner and convey at least some sense of his personality. Of the first time he demoed the bot for his parents, Vlahos writes: "Emboldened, I bring up something that has preoccupied me for months. 'This is a leading question, but answer it honestly,' I say, fumbling for words. 'Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none -- the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?' My dad looks off. When he answers, he sounds wearier than he did moments before. 'I know all of this shit,' he says, dismissing the compendium of facts stored in the Dadbot with a little wave. But he does take comfort in knowing that the Dadbot will share them with others. 'My family, particularly. And the grandkids, who won't know any of this stuff.' He's got seven of them, including my sons, Jonah and Zeke, all of whom call him Papou, the Greek term for grandfather. 'So this is great,' my dad says. 'I very much appreciate it.'"
Businesses

Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality? (theverge.com) 222

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC's plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we've heard before -- Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): "At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public... And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don't use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) -- so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket... you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.
Businesses

Microsoft's Wilsonville Jobs Are Going To China, Underscoring Travails of Domestic Tech Manufacturing (oregonlive.com) 148

An anonymous reader tips us a story: Just two years ago, Microsoft cast its Wilsonville factory as the harbinger of a new era in American technology manufacturing. The tech giant stamped, "Manufactured in Portland, OR, USA" on each Surface Hub it made there. It invited The New York Times and Fast Company magazine to tour the plant in 2015, then hired more than 100 people to make the enormous, $22,000 touch-screen computer. But last week Microsoft summoned its Wilsonville employees to an early-morning meeting and announced it will close the factory and lay off 124 employees -- nearly everyone at the site -- plus dozens of contract workers. Panos Panay, the vice president in charge of the Surface product group, traveled from corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to tell the staff that Microsoft was moving production to the same place it makes all other Surface products. Though workers present say he didn't disclose the location, Microsoft has previously said it makes its other Surface computers in China. The company hasn't explained, in public or to its Wilsonville employees, why it gave up on domestic manufacturing so quickly and didn't respond to repeated inquiries for comment. But the only thing surprising about Microsoft's decision is that it tried to make its computers in the U.S. in the first place.
AMD

AMD Has No Plans To Release PSP Code (twitch.tv) 125

AMD has faced calls from Edward Snowden, Libreboot and the Reddit community to release the source code to the AMD Secure Processor (PSP), a network-capable co-processor which some believe has the capacity to act as a backdoor. But despite some signs earlier that it might consider opening the PSP code at some point, the chip-maker has now confirmed that there hasn't been a change of heart yet. "We have no plans on releasing it to the public," the company executives said in a tech talk (video).
Businesses

Avast Now Owns CCleaner After Acquiring Piriform (betanews.com) 101

An anonymous reader writes: Security firm Avast has acquired software firm Piriform. Not only does the acquired company make CCleaner, but many other solid programs too. In fact, the rest of Piriform's library -- Recuva, Speccy, and Defraggler -- are staples of the Windows freeware community. "CCleaner is a leading brand in the market, used by 130 million people, including 15 million Android users. CCleaner has an extensive and extremely loyal community of tech-savvy users, who need to speed up and optimize their PC and Android experience. Avast will maintain the CCleaner brand of products along with Avast's existing performance optimization products, Avast Cleanup and AVG Tune Up. With the addition of CCleaner, Avast has dramatically expanded its product offerings in the PC and smartphone optimization market reaching customers around the world who demand faster performance," says Avast. Vince Steckler, CEO of Avast explains, "We see many commonalities between CCleaner and Avast, allowing for great new products for our user bases. Avast and CCleaner are the top two downloaded products on popular download sites. They are both known by advanced users as focused on performance, so we believe there will be a great interest from our CCleaner customers in using Avast security products and vice versa. In today's connected world, it's all about speed and high performance, and with Piriform's robust technology we can address this need perfectly. We look forward to working with the Piriform team to grow the business together."
Communications

FCC Refuses To Release Text of More Than 40,000 Net Neutrality Complaints (arstechnica.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission has denied a request to extend the deadline for filing public comments on its plan to overturn net neutrality rules, and the FCC is refusing to release the text of more than 40,000 net neutrality complaints that it has received since June 2015. The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request in May of this year for tens of thousands of net neutrality complaints that Internet users filed against their ISPs. The NHMC argues that the details of these complaints are crucial for analyzing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to overturn net neutrality rules. The coalition also asked the FCC to extend the initial comment deadline until 60 days after the commission fully complies with the FoIA request. A deadline extension would have given people more time to file public comments on the plan to eliminate net neutrality rules. Instead, the FCC yesterday denied the motion for an extension and said that it will only provide the text for a fraction of the complaints, because providing them all would be too burdensome.
Government

US Increases Number of H-2B Visas By 15,000 (arstechnica.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Donald Trump has said he's going to set more limits on the H-1B visa program, which allows tens of thousands of technology workers into the U.S. each year. But yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security moved to expand another type of visa, the H-2B, which allows lower-skilled workers in on a seasonal basis. The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday it is going to allow an additional 15,000 workers to come in under the H-2B visa category, which is typically used by U.S. businesses in industries like tourism, construction, and seafood processing. The program normally allows for 66,000 visas, split between the two halves of the year. That means the DHS increase, announced yesterday, represents an increase of more than 40 percent for the second half of 2017. Businesses can begin applying for the additional visas right away, as long as they attest under penalty of perjury that their business will "suffer irreparable harm" if it can't employ additional H-2B workers in 2017. The expansion is a temporary one, and it only applies to the current year.
Security

Exploit Derived From EternalSynergy Upgraded To Target Newer Windows Versions (bleepingcomputer.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: "Thai security researcher Worawit Wang has put together an exploit based on ETERNALSYNERGY that can also target newer versions of the Windows operating system," reports Bleeping Computer. "ETERNALSYNERGY is one of the NSA exploits leaked by the Shadow Brokers hacking group in April this year. According to a Microsoft technical analysis, the exploit can allow an attacker to execute code on Windows machines with SMB services exposed to external connections. The exploit works up to Windows 8. According to Microsoft, the techniques used in the original ETERNALSYNERGY exploit do not work on newer platforms due to several kernel security improvements. Wang says his exploit targets the same vulnerability but uses a different exploitation technique. His method 'should never crash a target,' the expert says. 'Chance should be nearly 0%,' Wang adds." Combining his exploit with the original ETERNALSYNERGY exploit would allow a hacker to target all Windows versions except Windows 10. This is about 75% of all Windows PCs. The exploit code is available for download from Wang's GitHub or ExploitDB. Sheila A. Berta, a security researcher for Telefonica's Eleven Paths security unit, has published a step-by-step guide on how to use Wang's exploit.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Developer Secrets That Could Sink Your Business? 239

snydeq writes: In today's tech world, the developer is king -- and we know it. But if you're letting us reign over your app dev strategy, you might be in for some surprises, thanks to what we aren't saying, writes an anonymous developer in a roundup of developer secrets that could sink the business. "The truth is, we developers aren't always straight with you. We have a few secrets we like to keep for ourselves. The fact that we don't tell you everything is understandable. You're the boss, after all. Do you tell your boss everything? If you're the CEO, do you loop in the board on every decision? So don't be so surprised when we do it." What possible damaging programming dirt are you keeping the lid on? Some of the points the developer mentions in his/her report include: "Your technical debt is a lot bigger than you think," "We're infatuated with our own code," and "We'd rather build than maintain." If you can think of any others not mentioned in the report, we're all ears! This may be a good time to check the "Post Anonymously" box before you submit your comment.

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