Electronic Frontier Foundation

American ISPS Are Now Fighting State Broadband Privacy Proposals (eff.org) 74

The EFF complains that "the very companies who spent millions of dollars lobbying in D.C. to repeal our federal broadband privacy rights are now fighting state attempts to protect consumers because they supposedly prefer a federal rule." The EFF urges Californians to phone their state senator ahead of a crucial back-to-back committee hearings on Tuesday. An anonymous reader writes: "Congress stole your online privacy. Let's seize it back," begins an email that the EFF is sending to California supporters. It warns that "Big Telecom has massive amounts of money to spend on an army of lobbyists. But if Internet users from across California unite with one voice, we can defeat their misinformation campaign... Don't let the big ISPs coopt our privacy."

The EFF's site points out that more than 83% of Americans support the privacy regulations which were repealed in March by the U.S. Congress, according to a new poll released last week. That's even more than the 77% of Americans who support keeping current net neutrality protections in place, according to the same poll. The EFF now hopes that California's newly-proposed legislation could become a model for privacy-protecting laws in other states. And back in Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News writes that California "has an obligation to take a lead in establishing the basic privacy rights of consumers using the Internet. Beyond being the right thing to do for the whole country, building trust in tech products is an essential long-term business strategy for the industry that was born in this region."

The EFF has also compiled an interesting list of past instances where ISPs have already tried to exploit the personal information of their customers for profit.
Television

Tech Companies Capture A Third Of This Year's Emmy Nominations (engadget.com) 31

"Streaming companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu snagged nearly 1/3 of Emmy nominations this year, the most ever awarded to tech companies," reports Axios, adding that streaming companies "are pouring billions of dollars into content...and it's paying off." An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: After passing 100 million subscribers, overtaking cable TV in customer numbers in the US and expanding to over 190 countries, Netflix is starting to cement something else: sustained prestige. A record haul of 91 Emmy nominations puts Netflix -- which had 54 nominations last year -- just behind perennial frontrunner HBO with 110... A key component of this upgrade in status is the sheer number of original offerings Netflix has put out. If you throw everything at an awards committee, quite a few of them might stick... Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has said Netflix spends over $6 billion a year on its own shows, in comparison to Amazon's reported spend of nearly $3 billion, with HBO at $2 billion...

Hulu picked up 18 nominations, up from two last year, including a first series nomination for dystopian A Handmaid's Tale. Together with Netflix's House of Cards, Stranger Things and The Crown, the majority of nominees in the competitive Outstanding Drama category were from streaming services. Amazon picked up 16 nominations, the same as last year.

The shows nominated for the most Emmy awards were NBC's Saturday Night Live, followed by HBO's Westworld, but Netflix ultimately ended up with more Emmy nominations than ABC, CBS, and Fox combined.
AI

Facebook's AI Keeps Inventing Languages That Humans Can't Understand (fastcodesign.com) 170

"Researchers at Facebook realized their bots were chattering in a new language," writes Fast Company's Co.Design. "Then they stopped it." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Facebook -- as well as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple -- said they were more interested in AI's that could talk to humans. But when two of Facebook's AI bots negotiated with each other "There was no reward to sticking to English language," says Dhruv Batra, visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR). Co.Design writes that the AI software simply, "learned, and evolved," adding that the creation of new languages is a phenomenon Facebook "has observed again, and again, and again". And this, of course, is problematic.

"Should we allow AI to evolve its dialects for specific tasks that involve speaking to other AIs? To essentially gossip out of our earshot? Maybe; it offers us the possibility of a more interoperable world, a more perfect place where iPhones talk to refrigerators that talk to your car without a second thought. The tradeoff is that we, as humanity, would have no clue what those machines were actually saying to one another."

One of the researchers believes that that's definitely going in the wrong direction. "We already don't generally understand how complex AIs think because we can't really see inside their thought process. Adding AI-to-AI conversations to this scenario would only make that problem worse."
Security

EternalBlue Vulnerability Scanner Finds Exposed Hosts Worldwide (helpnetsecurity.com) 38

Orome1 quotes Help Net Security:After the recent massive WannaCry ransomware campaign, Elad Erez, Director of Innovation at Imperva, was shocked at the number of systems that still sported the Microsoft Windows SMB Server vulnerabilities that made the attack possible. So, he decided to do something about it: he created Eternal Blues, an easy-to-use vulnerability scanner that he made available for download for free... The statistics collected by the tool, as well as the total number of downloads, show that after the NotPetya attack, people's awareness of the threat did increase... Over 8 million IP addresses were scanned, and a total of 60,000 vulnerable hosts were identified (out of ~537,000 that were responsive). Of the ~537,000 responsive hosts, some 258,000 still had SMBv1 enabled.
One organization in France found two vulnerable hosts after scanning over 13,000 IP addresses, and Erez believes that without his tool, "finding those two needles in the haystack would have been an almost impossible mission... Here is a lesson for IT/Security departments: don't be so certain that you know your network well. Deploy a multi-layered stack of security tools for both risk analysis and real time enforcement."
AI

Artificial Intelligence Has Race, Gender Biases (axios.com) 463

An anonymous reader shares a report: The ACLU has begun to worry that artificial intelligence is discriminatory based on race, gender and age. So it teamed up with computer science researchers to launch a program to promote applications of AI that protect rights and lead to equitable outcomes. MIT Technology Review reports that the initiative is the latest to illustrate general concern that the increasing reliance on algorithms to make decisions in the areas of hiring, criminal justice, and financial services will reinforce racial and gender biases. A computer program used by jurisdictions to help with paroling prisoners that ProPublica found would go easy on white offenders while being unduly harsh to black ones.
AT&T

Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T Want Congress To Make a Net Neutrality Law Because They Will Write It (theverge.com) 170

From a report on The Verge: Companies and organizations that rely on an open internet rallied on Wednesday for a "day of action" on net neutrality, and America's biggest internet service providers have responded with arrogance and contempt for their customers. Comcast's David Cohen called arguments in favor of FCC regulation "scare tactics" and "hysteria." Beyond the dismissive rhetoric, ISPs are coincidentally united today in calling for Congress to act -- and that's because they've paid handsomely to control what Congress does. There's one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and that's taking money from ISPs. The telecommunications industry was the most powerful lobbying force of the 20th century, and that power endures. It's no secret that lobbyists in Washington write many of the laws, and the telecom industry spends a lot of money to make sure lawmakers use them. We've already seen net neutrality legislation written by the ISPs, and it's filled with loopholes. It's not just in Congress -- companies like AT&T have deep influence over local and state broadband laws, and write those policies, too. Some pro-net neutrality advocates are also arguing today that Congress should act, and there are some good reasons for that. Laws can be stickier than the judgements of regulatory agencies, and if you want to make net neutrality the law of the land that's a job for Congress. But there's a reason the ISPs are all saying the same thing, and it's because they're very confident they will defeat the interests of consumers and constituents. They've already done it this year under the Republican-controlled government. Further reading: 10M+ web users saw yesterday's net neutrality protest -- but rules are still getting scrapped.
Businesses

Tech Giants Rally Today in Support of Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 126

From a report: Technology giants like Amazon, Spotify, Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter and many others are rallying today in a so-called "day of action" in support of net neutrality, five days ahead of the first deadline for comments on the US Federal Communications Commission's planned rollback of the rules. In a move that's equal parts infuriating and exasperating, Ajit Pai, the FCC's new chairman appointed by President Trump, wants to scrap the open internet protections installed in 2015 under the Obama administration. Those consumer protections mean providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon are prevented from blocking or slowing down access to the web. Sites across the web will display alerts on their homepages showing "blocked," "upgrade," and "spinning wheel of death" pop-ups to demonstrate what the internet would look like without net neutrality, according to advocacy group Battle for the Net. But most of the pop-ups The Verge has seen have been simple banners or static text with links offering more information.
The Courts

Twitter Users Blocked By Trump Sue, Claim @realDonaldTrump Is Public Forum (arstechnica.com) 429

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A handful of Twitter users, backed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, sued President Donald Trump on Tuesday, claiming their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump handle. The suit claims that Trump's Twitter feed is a public forum and an official voice of the president. Excluding people from reading or replying to his tweets -- especially because they tweeted critical comments -- amounts to a First Amendment breach, according to the lawsuit.

"The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another," according to the lawsuit (PDF) filed in New York federal court. "Defendants' viewpoint-based blocking of the Individual Plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump account infringes the Individual Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum," the suit says. "It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to access statements that Defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large. It also imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to petition the government for redress of grievances."

Google

Google Has Been Paying Academic Researchers Who Write Favorable Papers: Report (cnbc.com) 53

Google has paid researchers and academics who have worked on projects that support the company's positions in battles with regulators, a report in The Wall Street Journal (paywalled) said on Tuesday. From a report: Google's practice might not sound all that different from lobbying, but The Wall Street Journal revealed that some of the professors, including a Paul Heald from the University of Illinois, didn't disclose Google's payments. Heald is one of "more than a dozen" such professors who accepted money from Google, according to The Wall Street Journal. Google has reason to try to get as many folks on its side as it can. The company has faced almost constant scrutiny for its business practices, most recently a record antitrust fine of $2.7 billion in the European Union. Tens of thousands of dollars to professors here and there could have helped it avoid that fine, and others.
Businesses

Tech Boss Attacks 'Whiners' in Angry Email (bbc.com) 287

An anonymous reader shares a report: The co-founder of a Silicon Valley investment firm said it is "not my job to make you all feel good" in a long email to staff and investors. Jonathan Teo from Binary Capital was responding to negative press coverage about the firm following allegations of sexual harassment by his co-founder Justin Caldbeck. He added that he was "tired and indignant," and raged against "whiners" who demanded his attention. Mr Teo has already offered to resign. He did so after Mr Caldbeck left the firm in June. "I'm incredibly sorry," Mr Caldbeck tweeted when the news broke last month. Mr Caldbeck's actions were one of several sexism scandals to rock Silicon Valley in recent months. They include a damning report into the work culture inside ride-hailing firm Uber, and the resignation of venture capitalist Dave McClure, who admitted "inexcusable behaviour" towards "multiple women."
Businesses

Newspapers To Bid For Antitrust Exemption To Tackle Google and Facebook (cnbc.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The news industry is to band together to seek a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in an effort to fend off growing competition from Facebook and Google. Traditional competitors including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as a host of smaller print and online publications, will temporarily set aside their differences this week and appeal to federal lawmakers to let them negotiate collectively with the technology giants to safeguard the industry. Antitrust laws traditionally prevent companies from forming such an alliance which could see them becoming over-dominant in a particular sector. However, the media companies will be hoping that Congress will look favorably on a temporary exemption, particularly giving the recent clampdown on the technology industry which saw Google slapped with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine. The campaign is led by newspaper industry trade group News Media Alliance and it is intended to help the industry collaborate in order to regain market share from Facebook and Google, which have been swooping in on newspapers' distribution and advertising revenues. The two companies currently command 70 percent of the $73 billion digital advertising industry in the U.S., according to new research from the Pew Research Centre. Meanwhile, U.S. newspaper ad revenue in 2016 was $18 billion from $50 billion a decade ago.
Republicans

Trump Proposes Joint 'Cyber Security Unit' With Russia, Then Quickly Backs Away From It (arstechnica.com) 389

In a series of tweets yesterday, President Trump proposed "an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" with Putin "so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe." The news came as a shock to just about everyone who got word of it, including congressional members of his own GOP party. Less than 24 hours later, Trump decided against it, tweeting: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!" Ars Technica reports: "It's not the dumbest idea I have ever heard, but it's pretty close," Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, said of the plan. Senate Republican Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted that "partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit."' Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump and the Russian president decided at a meeting during a Group of 20 nations summit in Hamburg, Germany, to embark on a joint "cyber unit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cyber security together." But on Sunday, after it was clear that the plan was going nowhere, Trump took to Twitter and said no deal. That didn't stop Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, from introducing on Monday an amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would bar a US-Russian cyber accord. He said: "Donald Trump's proposal to form a 'cyber security unit' with Putin is a terrible idea that would immediately jeopardize American cybersecurity... Trump must acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and take strong, meaningful action to prevent it from happening again in future elections."
Businesses

Seattle City Council Unanimously Approves Income Tax For the Rich (geekwire.com) 481

reifman writes: Amazon, tech employees and those making $250,000 or more annually in Seattle will now pay a 2.25 percent income tax. "The Seattle City Council estimates that the tax would bring in an additional $140 million each year," reports GeekWire. "The revenue would go toward the city's housing affordability agenda and carbon reduction goals and supplant federal funds if they are cut. The revenue is also intended to alleviate the burden of Washington's property and sales taxes, which are often called the most regressive in the country." Anyone who's seen Amazon's impacts on Seattle and its low and middle income residents will appreciate how this tax will help the homeless, lower income and improve the environment. Not everyone is thrilled with the recently approved legislation. Jason Mercier, who directs the center for government reform with the Washington Police Center, said: "[The council is] going to unanimously adopt an illegal income tax that has no hope of taking effect and will waste taxpayer resources on litigation the city is sure to lose." The measure is expected to be challenged in court, as Washington's constitution states "a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income." According to The Washington Post, Mercier said there is decade of case law saying that a graduated income tax is unconstitutional because income is property and under the constitution, property tax has to be taxed uniformly and no more than 1 percent.
Businesses

The Oculus Rift Still Isn't Selling, In a Worrying Sign For VR (technologyreview.com) 413

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Despite Mark Zuckerberg's early enthusiasm for virtual reality, the technology has stubbornly remained a hard sell for Facebook. Now, in yet another sign that VR is failing to capture the imagination of the public, the company has just cut the price of its Oculus Rift hardware for the second time this year. For the next six weeks, the Oculus Rift headset and its matching controllers will cost just $399. That's $400 less than when it first hit the market, and $200 less than when its price was first slashed in March. It means that the Rift now costs less than the package offered by its cheapest rival, Sony, whose PlayStation VR currently totals $460 including headset and controllers. Even so, it's not clear that it will be enough to lure people into buying a Rift. Jason Rubin, vice president for content at Oculus, tells Reuters that the reduction isn't a sign of weak product sales, but rather a decision to give the headset more mass market appeal now that more games are available.
Google

Google Guillotine Falls on Certificate Authorities WoSign, StartCom (zdnet.com) 57

Google has warned that all certificates issued by Chinese company WoSign and subsidiary StartCom will be distrusted with the release of Chrome 61. From a report: According to a Google Groups post published by Chrome security engineer Devon O'Brien, due to "several incidents" involving the certificate authority which has "not [been] in keeping with the high standards expected of CAs," Google Chrome has already begun phasing out WoSign and StartCom by only trusting certificates issued prior to October 21, 2016. The tech giant is soon to go further and will completely distrust any certificate issued by the companies within a matter of months. The Chrome development team have restricted trust through a whitelist of hostnames which are based on the Alexa Top one million sites, and this list has been pruned down over the course of Chrome releases. Once version 61 is ready for public release, this will fully distrust any existing WoSign and StartCom root certificates and all certificates they have issued.
Software

Nokia 'Regrets' Withings Health App Backlash (bbc.com) 41

Nokia says it is "regrettable" that problems with its Health Mate fitness-tracking app have frustrated users. From a report: Nokia took over health tech firm Withings in 2016 and recently replaced the Withings Health Mate app with a Nokia-branded version. Health Mate has been downloaded more than one million times from app stores. But many users have left one-star reviews, saying the new app removed popular features from the Withings version and had technical issues. The company told the BBC an update would "integrate missing features." Before being taken over by Nokia, Withings made internet-connected health products such as weighing scales and air quality monitors, which provided data for the Health Mate app.
Transportation

Could Technology Companies Solve Traffic Congestion? (bloomberg.com) 151

As the Indian city of Bangalore "grapples with inadequate roads, unprecedented growth and overpopulation," can technology companies find a solution? randomErr writes: Tech giants and startups are turning their attention to a common enemy: the Indian city's infernal traffic congestion. Commutes that can take hours have inspired Gridlock Hackathon for technology workers to find solutions to the snarled roads that cost the economy billions of dollars. While the prize totals a mere $5,500, it's attracting teams from global giants Microsoft Corp., Google and Amazon.com. Inc. to local startups including Ola.
Bloomberg reports that the ideas "range from using artificial intelligence and big data on traffic flows to true moonshots, such as flying cars... Other entries suggested including Internet of Things-powered road dividers that change orientation to handle changing situations. There is also a proposal for a reporting system that tracks vehicles that don't conform to the road rules..." And one hackathon official says a team "suggested building smart roads underneath the city and another has sent in detailed drawings of flying cars." Any more bright ideas -- and more importantly, do any of these solutions really have a chance of succeeding?
Power

Google's New Startup Heats Your Home With Energy From Your Lawn (cnn.com) 168

WindBourne shares an article about Google's plans for "an extremely cheap form of HVAC." CNN reports: A new startup called Dandelion, born from the secretive and futuristic lab "X" of Google's parent company Alphabet, says it will offer affordable geothermal heating and cooling systems to homeowners. Existing systems are typically expensive with big upfront installation fees, discouraging homeowners from adopting the technology... Installing the pipes -- called "ground loops" -- under someone's lawn is a traditionally invasive, messy process. It involves using wide drills that dig wells more than 1,000 feet underground. Dandelion's drill is fast and lean, allowing for only one or two deep holes a few inches wide. The system will cost between $20,000 and $25,000, compared to conventional systems priced as high as $60,000.

Geothermal systems are better for the environment because they significantly cut down on carbon dioxide emissions... Buildings are responsible for 39% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Most of these emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels to provide the building with heating, cooling and lighting, and to power appliances and electrical equipment.

Google has been studying the potential of geothermal energy since 2011. Dandelion will eventually partner with local companies to handle installations -- and is already accepting sign-ups from customers in New York.
Operating Systems

48-Year-Old Multics Operating System Resurrected (multicians.org) 94

"The seminal operating system Multics has been reborn," writes Slashdot reader doon386: The last native Multics system was shut down in 2000. After more than a dozen years in hibernation a simulator for the Honeywell DPS-8/M CPU was finally realized and, consequently, Multics found new life... Along with the simulator an accompanying new release of Multics -- MR12.6 -- has been created and made available. MR12.6 contains many bug and Y2K fixes and allows Multics to run in a post-Y2K, internet-enabled world.
Besides supporting dates in the 21st century, it offers mail and send_message functionality, and can even simulate tape and disk I/O. (And yes, someone has already installed Multics on a Raspberry Pi.) Version 1.0 of the simulator was released Saturday, and Multicians.org is offering a complete QuickStart installation package with software, compilers, install scripts, and several initial projects (including SysDaemon, SysAdmin, and Daemon). Plus there's also useful Wiki documents about how to get started, noting that Multics emulation runs on Linux, macOS, Windows, and Raspian systems.

The original submission points out that "This revival of Multics allows hobbyists, researchers and students the chance to experience first hand the system that inspired UNIX."
IBM

Enthusiast Resurrects IBM's Legendary 'Model F' Keyboard (popularmechanics.com) 184

An anonymous reader quotes Popular Mechanics: You may not know the Model F by name, but you know it by sound -- the musical thwacking of flippers slapping away. The sound of the '80s office. The IBM Model F greeting the world in 1981 with a good ten pounds of die-cast zinc and keys that crash down on buckling metal springs as they descend. It's a sensation today's clickiest keyboards chase, but will never catch. And now it's coming back. The second coming of the high-quality Model F (not to be confused with its more affordable plastic successor, the Model M) isn't a throwback attention grab from IBM, nor a nostalgia play from Big Keyboard. Instead, it's the longtime work of a historian in love with the retro keyboard's unparalleled sound and feel, but frustrated by the limitations of actual decades-old tech.

The Model F Keyboards project, now taking preorders for the new line of authentic retro-boards, was started by Joe Strandberg, a Cornell University grad who's taken up keyboard wizardry as a nights-and-weekends hobby. He started as a collector and restorer of genuine Model F keyboards -- originally produced from 1981 to 1994 -- a process that familiarized him with their virtues and their flaws... Working with a factory in China, Strandberg has carefully overseen the reproduction process one step at time, from the springs to the unique powder-coating on the keyboard's zinc case. Despite the expense (Strandberg estimates spending $100,000 to revive the tooling necessary for the production run), it was the only viable option given the kind of abuse your average keyboard takes on a daily basis. "With 3D printing," he says, "the keyboard wouldn't last a year."

The first prototypes have just left the assembly line, and he's already racked up over a quarter of a million dollars in pre-orders. Does anyone else fondly remember IBM's hefty and trusty old keyboards?

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