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The Almighty Buck

Rich People Pay Less Attention To Other People, Says Study ( 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a small recent study, researchers from New York University found that those who considered themselves in higher classes looked at people who walked past them less than those who said they were in a lower class did. The results were published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science. According to Pia Dietze, a social psychology doctoral student at NYU and a lead author of the study, previous research has shown that people from different social classes vary in how they tend to behave towards other people. So, she wanted to shed some light on where such behaviors could have originated. The research was divided into three separate studies. For the first, Dietze and NYU psychology lab director Professor Eric Knowles asked 61 volunteers to walk along the street for one block while wearing Google Glass to record everything they looked at. These people were also asked to identify themselves as from a particular social class: either poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or upper class. An independent group watched the recordings and made note of the various people and things each Glass wearer looked at and for how long. The results showed that class identification, or what class each person said they belonged to, had an impact on how long they looked at the people who walked past them. During Study 2, participants viewed street scenes while the team tracked their eye movements. Again, higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. For the third and final study, the results suggested that this difference could stem from the way the brain works, rather than being a deliberate decision. Close to 400 participants took part in an online test where they had to look at alternating pairs of images, each containing a different face and five objects. Whereas higher class participants took longer to notice when the face was different in the alternate image compared to lower classes, the amount of time it took to detect the change of objects did not differ between them. The team reached the conclusion that faces seem to be more effective in grabbing the attention of individuals who come from relatively lower class backgrounds.
United States

New Study Shows HIV Epidemic Started Spreading In New York In 1970, Clears the Name of 'Patient Zero' ( 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A new genetic study confirms theories that the global epidemic of HIV and AIDS started in New York around 1970, and it also clears the name of a gay flight attendant long vilified as being "Patient Zero." Researchers got hold of frozen samples of blood taken from patients years before the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS was ever recognized, and teased out genetic material from the virus from that blood. They use it to show that HIV was circulating widely during the 1970s, and certainly before people began noticing a "gay plague" in New York in the early 1980s. "We can date the jump into the U.S. in about 1970 and 1971," Michael Worobey, an expert on the evolution of viruses at the University of Arizona, told reporters in a telephone briefing. Their findings also suggest HIV moved from New York to San Francisco in about 1976, they report in the journal Nature. Their findings confirm widespread theories that HIV first leapt from apes to humans in Africa around the beginning of the 20th century and circulated in central Africa before hitting the Caribbean in the 1960s. The genetic evidence supports the theory that the virus came from the Caribbean, perhaps Haiti, to New York in 1970. From there it spread explosively before being exported to Europe, Australia and Asia. The Worobey team also sequenced samples of virus taken from Gaetan Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant named as "Patient Zero." Dugas died in 1984 and stunned researchers when he told them he'd had about 250 sexual partners a year between 1979 and 1981, although it later became clear that was not uncommon. The sequences make it clear he was a victim of an epidemic that had already been raging, and not its originator, Worobey said. "It's shocking how this man's name has been sullied and destroyed by this incorrect history," said Peter Staley, a former Wall Street bond trader who became an AIDS activist in New York in the 1980s. "He was not Patient Zero and this study confirms it through genetic analysis," Staley told NBC News. "No one should be blamed for the spread of viruses," Worobey said.

Tesla Posts Second Profitable Quarter Ever ( 68

anderzole writes from a report via BGR: Tesla on Wednesday posted its earnings report for the quarter gone by and investors will have a lot to cheer about. While analysts on Wall St. were expecting Tesla to post a loss, Tesla during its September quarter actually posted a profit, and an impressive profit at that. When the dust settled, Tesla posted a quarterly profit of $22 million and EPS of $0.71. Revenue for the quarter checked in at $2.3 billion. Illustrating how impressive Tesla's performance was this past quarter, Wall St. was anticipating Tesla to post a loss amid $1.9 billion in revenue for the quarter. As far as deliveries are concerned, Tesla during the quarter boasted that it achieved record vehicle production, deliveries and revenue. More importantly, Tesla reaffirmed via a shareholder letter that the Model 3 is still on track for a late 2017 release. You can read Tesla's shareholder letter here.

176 Original Emojis Join Van Gogh and Picasso At Museum of Modern Art ( 18

If you happen to walk through the Museum of Modern Art in New York between December to March of next year, you may see 176 emoji on display next to Van Gogh and Picasso. On Wednesday, the museum announced that Shigetaka Kurita's original pictographs would be added to its collection. Los Angeles Times reports: Nearly two decades ago, Shigetaka Kurita was given the task of designing simple pictographs that could replace Japanese words for the growing number of cellphone users communicating with text messages. Kurita, who was working for the Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo at the time, came up with 176 of them, including oddities like a rocking horse, two kinds of umbrellas (one open, one closed) and five different phases of the moon. He called them emojis. An estimated 74% of Americans now use emojis every day, nudging the written word to the side in favor of a medium that can succinctly and playfully convey emotions in a society often more adept at texting than talking. That marriage of design and utility prompted the art world to take notice. Museum officials say emojis are the modern-day answer to an age-old tradition of communicating with pictures. "Emojis as a concept go back in the centuries, to ideograms, hieroglyphics and other graphic characters, enabling us to draw this beautiful arch that covers all of human history," said Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at MoMA. "There is nothing more modern than timeless concepts such as these."

How Vigilante Hackers Could Stop the Internet of Things Botnet ( 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Some have put forth a perhaps desperate -- and certainly illegal -- solution to stop massive internet outages, like the one on Friday, from happening: Have white-hat vigilante hackers take over the insecure Internet of Things that the Mirai malware targets and take them away from the criminals. Several hackers and security researchers agree that taking over the zombies in the Mirai botnet would be relatively easy. After all, if the "bad guys" Mirai can do it, a "good guys" Mirai -- perhaps even controlled by the FBI -- could do the same. The biggest technical hurdle to this plan, as F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen put it, is that once it infects a device, Mirai "closes the barn door behind it." Mirai spreads by scanning the internet for devices that have the old-fashioned remote access telnet protocol enabled and have easy to guess passwords such as "123456" or "passwords." Then, once it infects them, it disables telnet access, theoretically stopping others from doing the same. The good news is that the code that controls this function actually doesn't at times work very well, according to Darren Martyn, a security researcher who has been analyzing the malware and who said he's seen some infected devices that still have telnet enabled and thus can be hacked again. Also, Mirai disappears once an infected device is rebooted, which likely happens often as owners of infected cameras and DVRs try to fix their devices that suddenly have their bandwidth saturated. The bad news is that the Mirai spreads so fast that a rebooted, clean, device gets re-infected in five minutes, according to the estimates of researchers who've been tracking the botnets. So a vigilante hacker has a small window before the bad guys come back. The other problem is what a do-gooder hacker could do once they took over the botnet. The options are: brick the devices, making them completely unusable; change the default passwords, locking out even their legitimate owners; or try to fix their firmware to make them more resistant to future hack attempts, and also still perfectly functioning. The real challenge of this whole scenario, however, is that despite being for good, this is still illegal. "No one has any real motivation to do so. Anyone with the desire to do so, is probably afraid of the potential jail time. Anyone not afraid of the potential jail time...can think of better uses for the devices," Martyn told Motherboard, referring to criminals who can monetize the Mirai botnet.

Canadian Police Are Texting Potential Murder Witnesses ( 84

On Thursday, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will send text messages to anybody who was in the vicinity of a murder in the hopes that one of them will have information that can help catch the culprit. One of the recipients may even be the killer. Others may wonder how the police obtained their phone number in the first place, or knew where they were on the day in question. From a Motherboard report: The OPP is ramping up its efforts to find the murderer of 65-year-old hitchhiker John Hatch, who was found dead near Erin, Ontario, on December 17, 2015. He was last seen alive the day before, outside Ottawa. Now, the OPP has announced what it's describing as a "new investigative technique" for the force: obtaining the phone numbers of everyone who was in the area where and when Hatch was last seen alive, via a court order, and sending each person a text message directing them to a police website. If they follow those instructions, they'll be asked a series of online questions. According to digital privacy lawyer David Fraser, this technique is known as a "tower dump" -- essentially asking telecom companies for information about everyone who connected to a certain cellphone tower, at a given time. If the police plan on using this technique again, its future uses could have unintended effects, Frasier said.

Comcast Sues Nashville To Halt Rules That Give Google Fiber Faster Access To Utility Poles ( 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast yesterday sued the Nashville metro government and mayor to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles. Comcast's complaint in U.S. District Court in Nashville (full text) is similar to one already filed by AT&T last month. Both ISPs are trying to invalidate a One Touch Make Ready ordinance that lets new ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. The ordinance was passed largely to benefit Google Fiber, which is offering service in Nashville but says that it hasn't been able to deploy faster because it is waiting to get access to thousands of poles. Nearly all the Nashville utility poles are owned either by the municipal Nashville Electric Service or AT&T. Because Comcast has wires on many of the poles, it has some control over how quickly Google Fiber can expand its network. When Google Fiber wants to attach wires to a new pole, it needs to wait for ISPs like Comcast to move their wires to make room for Google Fiber's. The Nashville One Touch Make Ready ordinance "permits third parties to move, alter, or rearrange components of Comcast's communications network attached to utility poles without Comcast's consent, authorization, or oversight, and with far less notice than is required by federal law and by an existing Comcast contract with Metro Nashville," Comcast's complaint said. Comcast asked the court to declare the ordinance invalid and permanently enjoin Nashville from enforcing it. The pre-existing Make Ready process "seek[s] to ensure that all providers can share available pole space cooperatively and safely, without interfering with or damaging any provider's equipment or services," Comcast said. The new procedures mandated by Nashville "are so intrusive that, tellingly, Metro Nashville has wholly exempted its own utility pole attachments from the Ordinance's coverage." Even though Google Fiber announced yesterday that it will pause operations and cut 9% of its staff, the ISP said it would continue operations in Nashville.

Dyn DNS DDoS Likely The Work of Script Kiddies, Says FlashPoint ( 69

While nobody knows exactly who was responsible for the internet outrage last Friday, business risk intelligence firm FlashPoint released a preliminary analysis of the attack agains Dyn DNS, and found that it was likely the work of "script kiddies" or amateur hackers -- as opposed to state-sponsored actors. TechCrunch reports: Aside from suspicion falling on Russia, various entities have also claimed or implied responsibility for the attack, including a hacking group called the New World Hackers and -- bizarrely -- WikiLeaks, which put a (perhaps joke) tweet suggesting some of its supporters might be involved. FlashPoint dubs these claims "dubious" and "likely to be false," and instead comes down on the side of the script kidding theory. Its reasoning is based on a few factors, including a detail it unearthed during its investigation of the attack: namely that the infrastructure used in the attack also targeted a well-known video game company. The attack on Dyn DNS was powered in part by a botnet of hacked DVRs and webcams known as Mirai. The source code for the malware that controls this botnet was put on Github earlier this month. And FlashPoint also notes that the hacker who released Mirai is known to frequent a hacking forum called hackforums[.]net. That circumstantial evidence points to a link between the attack and users and readers of the English-language hacking community, with FlashPoint also noting the forum has been known to target video games companies. It says it has "moderate confidence" about this theory. The firm also argues that the attacks do not seem to have been financially or politically motivated -- given the broad scope of the targets, and the lack of any attempts to extort money. Which just leaves the most likely being motivation to show off skills and disrupt stuff. Aka, script kiddies.

Google Fiber Pauses Operations, CEO Leaves, and About 9 Percent of Staff Is Being Let Go ( 190

The future of Google Fiber has been shaky ever since Google's parent company, Alphabet, was founded. The original plan was to expand Fiber's blazing fast internet service to more than 20 cities, with the goal of eventually delivering nationwide gigabit service. However, Alphabet hit the reset button on those plans Tuesday. Not only is Google Fiber CEO Craig Barratt leaving, but about 9 percent of staff is being let go. That translates to about 130 job losses, since the business has about 1,500 employees. Bloomberg reports: Barratt wrote in a blog post that the company is pulling back fiber-to-the-home service from eight different cities where it had announced plans. Those include major metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Moving into big cities was a contentious point inside Google Fiber, according to one former executive. Leaders like Barratt and Dennis Kish, who runs Google Fiber day-to-day, pushed for the big expansion. Others pushed back because of the prohibitive cost of digging up streets to lay fiber-optic cables across some of America's busiest cities. "I suspect the sheer economics of broad scale access deployments finally became too much for them," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. "Ultimately, most of the reasons Google got into this in the first place have either been achieved or been demonstrated to be unrealistic."

Russia Unveils 'Satan 2' Missile Powerful Enough To 'Wipe Out UK, France Or Texas' ( 897

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Telegraph: Russia has released the first image of its new nuclear missile, a weapon so powerful that it could wipe out nearly all of the United Kingdom or France. The RS-28 Sarmat thermonuclear-armed ballistic missile was commissioned in 2011 and is expected to come into service in 2018. The first images of the massive missile were declassified on Sunday and have now been published for the first time. It has been dubbed "Satan 2," as it will replace the RS-36M, the 1970s-era weapon referred to by Nato as the Satan missile. Sputnik, the Russian government-controlled news agency, reported in May that the missile could destroy an area "the size of Texas or France." Russian media report that the missile will weigh up to 10 tons with the capacity to carry up to 10 tons of nuclear cargo. With that type of payload, it could deliver a blast some 2,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia reportedly tested a hypersonic warhead in April that is apparently intended for use on the Satan 2 missiles. The warhead is designed to be impossible to intercept because it does not move on a set trajectory.

Nuclear Plants Leak Critical Alerts In Unencrypted Pager Messages ( 74

mdsolar quotes a report from Ars Technica: A surprisingly large number of critical infrastructure participants -- including chemical manufacturers, nuclear and electric plants, defense contractors, building operators and chip makers -- rely on unsecured wireless pagers to automate their industrial control systems. According to a new report, this practice opens them to malicious hacks and espionage. Earlier this year, researchers from security firm Trend Micro collected more than 54 million pages over a four-month span using low-cost hardware. In some cases, the messages alerted recipients to unsafe conditions affecting mission-critical infrastructure as they were detected. A heating, venting, and air-conditioning system, for instance, used an e-mail-to-pager gateway to alert a hospital to a potentially dangerous level of sewage water. Meanwhile, a supervisory and control data acquisition system belonging to one of the world's biggest chemical companies sent a page containing a complete "stack dump" of one of its devices. Other unencrypted alerts sent by or to "several nuclear plants scattered among different states" included:

-Reduced pumping flow rate
-Water leak, steam leak, radiant coolant service leak, electrohydraulic control oil leak
-Fire accidents in an unrestricted area and in an administration building
-Loss of redundancy
-People requiring off-site medical attention
-A control rod losing its position indication due to a data fault
-Nuclear contamination without personal damage
Trend Micro researchers wrote in their report titled "Leaking Beeps: Unencrypted Pager Messages in Industrial Environments": "We were surprised to see unencrypted pages coming from industrial sectors like nuclear power plants, substations, power generation plants, chemical plants, defense contractors, semiconductor and commercial manufacturers, and HVAC. These unencrypted pager messages are a valuable source of passive intelligence, the gathering of information that is unintentionally leaked by networked or connected organizations. Taken together, threat actors can do heavy reconnaissance on targets by making sense of the acquired information through paging messages. Though we are not well-versed with the terms and information used in some of the sectors in our research, we were able to determine what the pages mean, including how attackers would make use of them in an elaborate targeted attack or how industry competitors would take advantage of such information. The power generation sector is overseen by regulating bodies like the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). The NERC can impose significant fines on companies that violate critical infrastructure protection requirements, such as ensuring that communications are encrypted. Other similar regulations also exist for the chemical manufacturing sector."

Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity ( 283

The world's largest source of power capacity is now renewables, as roughly half a million solar panels were installed every single day last year. In addition, two wind turbines were erected every hour in countries such as China, according to the International Energy Agency. Financial Times reports (Editor's note: may be paywalled; alternate source): Although coal and other fossil fuels remain the largest source of electricity generation, many conventional power utilities and energy groups have been confounded by the speed at which renewables have grown and the rapid drop in costs for the technologies. Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 percent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed. The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 percent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power. It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which has more than the total power capacity in Canada. It was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal's cumulative share of global power capacity -- though not electricity generation. A power plant's capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time. Coal power plants supplied close to 39 percent of the world's power in 2015, while renewables, including old hydropower dams, accounted for 23 percent, IEA data show. But the agency expects renewables' share of power generation to rise to 28 percent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the U.S. and E.U. combined.

Apple's Annual Sales Fall For First Time Since 2001 ( 214

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Apple just posted its first annual sales decline since 2001, the year it launched the iPod and kicked off a tremendous run of groundbreaking products. The tech company revealed Tuesday that annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending September 30, from a record $234 billion in 2015. The sales decline is closely connected to the falling sales for the iPhone, which remains Apple's largest source of revenue. Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the September quarter, down from 48 million iPhones in the same quarter a year earlier. That marks the third consecutive quarter when iPhone sales and overall revenue have declined from a year prior. Many analysts have raised concerns that the global smartphone market is saturated. Customers are taking longer to replace their phones. And Apple's latest iPhone is a dead ringer for the previous two models, eliminating some of the desire to upgrade. The good news is that this sales decline may prove to be a blip and not the new norm. Apple is projecting that it will post sales of $76 billion to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion a year earlier.

Scientists Create AI Program That Can Predict Human Rights Trials With 79 Percent Accuracy ( 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Computer scientists have created an AI program capable of predicting the outcome of human rights trials. The program was trained on data from nearly 600 cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and was able to predict the court's final judgement with 79 percent accuracy. Its creators say it could be useful in identifying common patterns in court cases, but stress that they do not believe AI will be able to replace human judgement. As described in a study published in the journal PeerJ Computer Science, the AI program worked by analyzing descriptions of court cases submitted to the ECHR. These descriptions included summaries of legal arguments, a brief case history, and an outline of the relevant legislation. The cases were grouped into three main violations of human rights law, including the prohibition on torture and degrading treatment; the right to a fair trial; and the right to "respect for private and family life." (Used in a wide range of cases including illegal searches and surveillance.) The AI program then looked for patterns in this data, correlating the courts' final judgements with, for example, the type of evidence submitted, and the exact part of the European Convention on Human Rights the case was alleged to violate. Aletras says a number of patterns emerged. For example, cases concerning detention conditions (eg access to food, legal support, etc.) were more likely to end in a positive judgement that an individual's human rights had been violated; while cases involving sentencing issues (i.e., how long someone had been imprisoned) were more likely to end in acquittal. The researchers also found that the judgements of the court were more dependent on the facts of the case itself (that is to say, its history and its particulars) than the legal arguments (i.e., how exactly the Convention on Human Rights had or had not been violated).

Apple Has Created 'Detailed Mockups' of iMessage For Android ( 141

One of the biggest features on iOS that isn't available on Android is iMessage, an instant messaging service that allows users to send information over Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and other forms of internet access to other iOS or OS X users. Earlier this year, there were been rumors swirling around the possibility of the service coming to Android due to Apple's increased focus on services, "which means opening up certain avenues beyond its own iOS and OS X platforms." Today, Daring Fireball's John Gruber has added fuel to the fire by mentioning that he's "heard from little birdies" that a handful of "detailed mockups" of iMessage for Android have been shared around Apple. MacRumors reports: The user interface of the Android app is said to have gone through numerous designs, from one that looks identical to the version on iOS, to another that has a "pure Material Design," using Google's design language it developed a few years ago. Gruber still thinks iMessage on Android "might happen sooner or later," mainly because of iMessage's new monetized Messages App Store, which could net Apple increased income in its already profitable services category if it translated the app to Android. Apple undoubtedly created mockups for all types of products and services, the vast majority of which never make it to release, and it's unclear exactly how far along the iMessage for Android preliminary designs were at the time of their circulation through Apple, or when exactly that occurred. Still, Gruber notes that while an Android version of iMessage "may never see the light of day," even the existence of such mockups "strongly suggests that there's no 'of course not' to it."

Yahoo Scanning Order Unlikely To Be Made Public: Reuters ( 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Obama administration officials briefed key congressional staffers last week about a secret court order to Yahoo that prompted it to search all users' incoming emails for a still undisclosed digital signature, but they remain reluctant to discuss the unusual case with a broader audience. Executive branch officials spoke to staff for members of the Senate and House of Representatives committees overseeing intelligence operations and the judiciary, according to people briefed on the events, which followed Reuters' disclosure of the massive search. But attempts by other members of Congress and civil society groups to learn more about the Yahoo order are unlikely to meet with success anytime soon, because its details remain a sensitive national security matter, U.S. officials told Reuters. Release of any declassified version of the order is unlikely in the foreseeable future, the officials said. The decision to keep details of the order secret comes amid mounting pressure on the U.S. government to be more transparent about its data-collection activities ahead of a congressional deadline next year to reauthorize some foreign intelligence authorities. On Tuesday, more than 30 advocacy groups will send a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking for declassification of the Yahoo order that led to the search of emails last year in pursuit of data matching a specific digital symbol. The groups say that Title I of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, under which sources said the order was issued, requires a finding that the target of such a wiretap is probably an agent of a foreign power and that the facility to be tapped is probably going to be used for a transmission. An entire service, such as Yahoo, has never publicly been considered to be a "facility" in such a case: instead, the word usually refers to a phone number or an email account.

Benchmark Battle October 2016: Chrome Vs. Firefox Vs. Edge ( 133

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: It's been more than a year since our last browser benchmark battle, and the competition remains fierce. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge have all gained a variety of new features and improvements over the past year. It's time to see if any of them have managed to pull ahead of the pack. It appears that Edge has made the biggest gains since last year. That said, browser performance is improving at a very rapid pace, and it shouldn't be your only consideration when picking your preferred app for consuming Internet content. You can click on individual tests below to see the details:

SunSpider: Edge wins!
Octane: Edge wins!
Kraken: Chrome wins!
JetStream: Edge wins!
Oort Online: Firefox wins!
Peacekeeper: Firefox wins!
WebXPRT: Edge wins!
HTML5Test: Chrome wins!

You can also read all about the setup used for the benchmark tests here. VentureBeat used a custom desktop PC, featuring an Intel Core i5 4440 processor (6M Cache, 3.10 GHz), 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, a 500GB SATA hard drive (7200 RPM), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card, and a 24-inch widescreen LED monitor (1920 x 1080).

Largest Auto-Scandal Settlement In US History: Judge Approves $15 Billion Volkswagen Settlement ( 114

A federal just has approved the largest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history, a $14.7 billion settlement concerning Volkswagen Group's diesel car emissions scandal. USA Today reports: U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco approved the sweeping agreement between consumers, the government, California regulators and the German automaker in a written ruling a week after signaling he was likely to sign off. He said the agreement is "fair, reasonable and adequate." The settlement comes about a year after Volkswagen admitted that it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to dodge emissions standards. The company is still facing criminal investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors. The U.S. probe could lead to additional financial penalties and criminal indictments. About 475,000 Volkswagen owners in the U.S. can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation, if a repair becomes available. VW will begin administering the settlement immediately, having already devoted several hundred employees to handling the process. Buybacks range in value from $12,475 to $44,176, including restitution payments, and varying based on milage. People who opt for a fix approved by the Environmental Protection Agency will receive payouts ranging from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on the book value of their car. Volkswagen will also pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean-emissions infrastructure.

AT&T Is Spying on Americans For Profit, New Documents Reveal ( 157

AT&T has been secretly spying on its own customers, the Daily Beast reports. The revelation comes days after the top carrier announced plans to purchase Time Warner. The report claims that AT&T ran a program called Project Hemisphere through which it analyzed cellular data from the company's call records to determine where a given individual is located and with whom they are speaking. The New York Times reported about the program's existence in 2013, but it was described as a "partnership" between A&T and the government for fighting narcotics trafficking. But today's report, which cites several classifed documents, claims that AT&T used Hemisphere for a range of other functions -- and always without a warrant. From the report:Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why. [...] Hemisphere isn't a "partnership" but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company's massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public. These new revelations come as the company seeks to acquire Time Warner in the face of vocal opposition saying the deal would be bad for consumers. While telecommunications companies are legally obligated to hand over records, AT&T appears to have gone much further to make the enterprise profitable, according to ACLU technology policy analyst Christopher Soghoian. "Companies have to give this data to law enforcement upon request, if they have it. AT&T doesn't have to data-mine its database to help police come up with new numbers to investigate," Soghoian said. AT&T has a unique power to extract information from its metadata because it retains so much of it. The company owns more than three-quarters of U.S. landline switches, and the second largest share of the nation's wireless infrastructure and cellphone towers, behind Verizon. AT&T retains its cell tower data going back to July 2008, longer than other providers. Verizon holds records for a year and Sprint for 18 months, according to a 2011 retention schedule obtained by The Daily Beast.

Latest WikiLeaks Reveal Suggests Facebook Is Too Close For Comfort With Clinton ( 419

MojoKid writes: As we quickly approach the November 8th elections, email leaks from the Clinton camp continue to loom over the presidential candidate. The latest data dump from WikiLeaks shines a light on emails between Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta and Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. In one email exchange, dated June 6th, 2015, Sandberg expresses her desire for Clinton to become president, writing to Podesta, "And I still want HRC to win badly. I am still here to help as I can." While that was a private exchange, Sandberg also made her zest for seeing Clinton as the 45th President of the United States publicly known in a Facebook post on July 28th of this year. None of that is too shocking when you think about it. Sandberg has every right to endorse whichever candidate she wants for president. However, a later exchange between Sandberg and Podesta showed that Mark Zuckerberg was looking to get in on the action a bit, and perhaps curry favor with Podesta and the Clinton camp in shaping public policy. Donald Trump has long claimed that Clinton is too cozy with big businesses, and one cannot dismiss the fact that Facebook has a global user base of 1.7 billion users. When you toss in the fact that Facebook came under fire earlier this year for allegedly suppressing conservative news outlets in the Trending News bar, questions begin to arise about Facebook's impartiality in the political race. The report also notes that Sandberg is at the top of the list when it comes to picks for Treasury Secretary, if Clinton wins the election. In an interview with Politico, David Segal, executive director for Demand Progress, said "[Sandberg] is a proxy for this growing problem that is the hegemony of five to ten major Silicon Valley platforms." Lina Khan, a fellow with the Open Markets Program at the New American think tank adds: "If a senior Cabinet member is from Facebook, at worst it could directly interfere [in antitrust actions]. But even in the best of cases there's a real worry that it will have a chilling effect on good-faith antitrust efforts to scrutinize potential anti-competitive implications of dominant tech platforms."

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