Google

Google Loses 'Right To Be Forgotten' Case (bbc.com) 160

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a High Court action against Google. BBC reports: The man, who has not been named due to reporting restrictions surrounding the case, wanted search results about a past crime he had committed removed from the search engine. The judge, Mr Justice Mark Warby, ruled in his favour on Friday. But he rejected a separate claim made by another businessman who had committed a more serious crime. The businessman who won his case was convicted 10 years ago of conspiring to intercept communications. He spent six months in jail. The other businessman, who lost his case, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiring to account falsely. He spent four years in jail.
Communications

Reddit Continues To Protect Racist Language In Favor of Free Speech (digitaltrends.com) 661

In a thread about Reddit's 2017 transparency report, a user asked CEO Steve Huffman whether posts containing racism or racial slurs violate Reddit's terms. Huffman revealed that said speech are permissible on the site. "On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs," Huffman clarified. "This means on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so." Digital Trends reports: It's unclear if Huffman's comments are representative of Reddit's company policy, but protection of hate speech can -- and do -- lead to online harassment and cyberbullying. A recent study from Pew revealed that as many as 40 percent of Americans have experienced some form of harassment online. And even if hate speech may still be protected content on Reddit, Huffman was quick to point out that any threat of violence is not tolerated on the site. "When users actions conflict with our own content policies, we take action," he said. This distinction is consistent with Reddit's prior policies for enforcement. "Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals," the updated terms read, noting that "context is key."
Advertising

Zuckerberg: Facebook Doesn't Use Your Mic For Ad Targeting (engadget.com) 257

During today's joint hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, CEO Mark Zuckerberg fully denied the idea that Facebook listens in on your conversations via microphones to display relevant ads. Engadget reports: Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) asked him to answer "yes or no" whether Facebook used audio from personal devices to fill out its ad data, and Zuckerberg said no. The CEO explained that users can upload videos with audio in them, but not the kind of background spying that you've probably heard people talk about. Peters: "I have heard constituents say Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purpose of ad targeting. This speaks to the lack of trust we are seeing. I understand there are technical and logistical issues for that to happen. For the record, I hear it all the time, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?"

Zuckerberg: "We do not. Senator, Let me be clear on this. You are talking about the conspiracy theory passed around that we listen to what is going on on your microphone and use that. We do not do that. We do allow people to take videos on their device and share those. Videos also have audio. We do, while you are taking a video, record that and use that to make the service better by making sure that you have audio. That is pretty clear."
Businesses

Apple Must Pay Patent Troll More Than $500 Million In iMessage Case (bloomberg.com) 75

A federal court in Texas today has ordered Apple to pay $502.6 million to a patent troll called VirnetX, the latest twist in a dispute now in its eighth year. "VirnetX claimed that Apple's FaceTime, VPN on Demand and iMessage features infringe four patents related to secure communications, claims that Apple denied," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The dispute has bounced between the district court, patent office and Federal Circuit since 2010. There have been multiple trials, most recently one involving earlier versions of the Apple devices. A jury in that case awarded $302 million that a judge later increased to $439.7 million. Kendall Larsen, CEO of VirnetX, said the damages, which were based on sales of more than 400 million Apple devices, were "fair." "The evidence was clear," Larsen said after the verdict was announced. "Tell the truth and you don't have to worry about anything." For VirnetX, the jury verdict in its favor could be a short-lived victory. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has said the patents are invalid, in cases that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington. The Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, declined to put this trial on hold, saying it was so far along that a verdict would come before a final validity decision.
AI

Zuckerberg Testimony: Facebook AI Will Curb Hate Speech In 5 To 10 Years (inverse.com) 469

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: After a question from Senator John Thune (R-SD) about why the public should believe that Facebook was earnestly working towards improving privacy, Zuckerberg essentially responded by saying that things are different now. Zuckerberg said that the platform is going through a "broad philosophical shift in how we approach our responsibility as a company." "We need to now take a more proactive view at policing the ecosystem," he said. In part, Zuckerberg was talking about hate speech and the various ways his platform has been used to seed misinformation. This prompted Thune to ask what steps Facebook was taking to improve its ability to define what is and what is not hate speech.

"Hate speech is one of the hardest," Zuckerberg said. "Determining if something is hate speech is very linguistically nuanced. You need to understand what is a slur and whether something is hateful, and not just in English..." Zuckerberg said that the company is increasingly developing AI tools to flag hate speech proactively, rather than relying on reactions from users and employees to flag offensive content. But according to the CEO, because flagging hate speech is so complex, he estimates it could take five to 10 years to create adequate A.I. "Today we're just not there on that," he said. For now, Zuckerberg said, it's still on users to flag offensive content. "We have people look at it, we have policies to try and make it as not subjective as possible, but until we get it more automated there is a higher error rate than I'm happy with," he said.

Communications

Oregon Becomes Second State To Pass a Net Neutrality Law (katu.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KATU: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Monday withholding state business from internet providers who throttle traffic, making the state the second to finalize a proposal aimed at thwarting moves by federal regulators to relax net neutrality requirements. The bill stops short of actually putting new requirements on internet service providers in the state, but blocks the state from doing business with providers that offer preferential treatment to some internet content or apps, starting in 2019. The move follows a December vote by the Federal Communications Commission repealing Obama-era rules that prohibited such preferential treatment, referred to generally as throttling, by providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Brown's signature makes the state the second to enact such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It also stakes out the state's claim to a moderate approach, compared to others: Five weeks to the day before Brown, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill in his state to directly regulate providers there. The prohibition, which restricts with whom the state may contract for internet services, applies to cities and counties, but exempts areas with only a single provider.
Businesses

How Much VR User Data Is Oculus Giving To Facebook? (theverge.com) 60

Facebook owns many other apps and services, including the Oculus virtual-reality platform, which collects incredibly detailed information about where users are looking and how they're moving. Since most of the discussion about how Facebook handles user information is focused on the social network itself, The Verge's Adi Robertson looks into the link between Facebook and Oculus: A VR platform like Oculus offers lots of data points that could be turned into a detailed user profile. Facebook already records a "heatmap" of viewer data for 360-degree videos, for instance, flagging which parts of a video people find most interesting. If it decided to track VR users at a more detailed level, it could do something like track overall movement patterns with hand controllers, then guess whether someone is sick or tired on a particular day. Oculus imagines people using its headsets the way they use phones and computers today, which would let it track all kinds of private communications. The Oculus privacy policy has a blanket clause that lets it share and receive information from Facebook and Facebook-owned services. So far, the company claims that it exercises this option in very limited ways, and none of them involve giving data to Facebook advertisers. "Oculus does not share people's data with Facebook for third-party advertising," a spokesperson tells The Verge.

Oculus says there are some types of data it either doesn't share or doesn't retain at all. The platform collects physical information like height to calibrate VR experiences, but apparently, it doesn't share any of it with Facebook. It stores posts that are made on the Oculus forums, but not voice communications between users in VR, although it may retain records of connections between them. The company also offers a few examples of when it would share data with Facebook or vice versa. Most obviously, if you're using a Facebook-created VR app like Spaces, Facebook gets information about what you're doing there, much in the same way that any third-party app developer would. You can optionally link your Facebook account to your Oculus ID, in which case, Oculus will use your Facebook interests to suggest specific apps or games. If you've linked the accounts, any friend you add on Facebook will also become your friend on Oculus, if they're on the platform.
Oculus does, however, share data between the two services to fight certain kinds of banned activity. "If we find someone using their account to send spam on one service, we can disable all of their accounts," an Oculus spokesperson says. "Similarly, if there's 'strange activity' on a specific Oculus account, they can share the IP address it's coming from with Facebook," writes Robertson. "The biggest problem is that there's nothing stopping Facebook and Oculus from choosing to share more data in the future."
Advertising

Tim Cook Says Ads That Follow You Online Are 'Creepy' (cnet.com) 181

In a wide-ranging interview with MSNBC and Recode, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that everyone should know how much data they're sharing and what can be inferred about us from that information. He added that privacy "is a human right" and said he's worried about how advertisers and others can abuse access to our data. "To me it's creepy when I look at something and all of a sudden it's chasing me all the way across the web," Cook said. "I don't like that." CNET reports: The comments came as part of a wide-ranging interview between Cook, MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Recode's Kara Swisher. MSNBC broadcast the special, named "Revolution: Apple changing the world" at 5 p.m. PT on Friday. The interview was taped the day after Apple's education event in Chicago, where the company introduced a new 9.7-inch iPad and tools for teachers. The two publications released some early clips and comments from Cook over the past couple of weeks. That included remarks he made about Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cook noted that Apple purposely chose not to make "a ton of money" off its customers' data and that Facebook failed to effectively regulate itself, prompting a need for government intervention. Along with Facebook and its privacy issues, Cook talked up DACA and immigration, tax reform, the changing job landscape and the need for everyone to learn coding, among other topics.
Earth

One-Degree Rise In Temperature Causes Ripple Effect In World's Largest High Arctic Lake (folio.ca) 303

An anonymous reader quotes a report from FOLIO Magazine: A 1 C increase in temperature has set off a chain of events disrupting the entire ecology of the world's largest High Arctic lake. "The amount of glacial meltwater going into the lake has dramatically increased," said Martin Sharp, a University of Alberta glaciologist who was part of a team of scientists that documented the rapid changes in Lake Hazen on Ellesmere Island over a series of warm summers in the last decade. "Because it's glacial meltwater, the amount of fine sediment going into the lake has dramatically increased as well. That in turn affects how much light can get into the water column, which may affect biological productivity in the lake." The changes resulted in algal blooms and detrimental changes to the Arctic char fish population, and point to a near certain future of summer ice-free conditions. The findings document an unprecedented shift from the previous three centuries, challenging scientists' expectations of how such a large system could respond so rapidly to a one-degree rise. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Communications

Russia Files Lawsuit To Block Telegram Messaging App (reuters.com) 70

Russia's state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has filed a lawsuit to block Telegram in the country because the instant messaging company has refused to hand over the encryption keys that would allow Russian authorities to read messages sent using the service. From a report: Ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app, Telegram is widely used in countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East. Active users of the app reached 200 million in March. As part of its services, Telegram allows users to communicate via encrypted messages which cannot be read by third parties, including government authorities. But Russia's FSB Federal Security service has said it needs access to some messages for its work, including guarding against terrorist attacks. Telegram has refused to comply with its demands, citing respect for user privacy.
The Courts

The Supreme Court Fight Over Microsoft's Foreign Servers Is Over (theverge.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The much-anticipated Supreme Court case U.S. v. Microsoft -- which could have decided the extent of American jurisdiction over foreign servers -- is now, for all intents and purposes, dead. On March 30th, the Department of Justice moved to drop the lawsuit as moot, and today, Microsoft filed to agree with the motion. While the Supreme Court has yet to officially drop the case, it's a foregone conclusion that they will. Both the government and Microsoft agree that the newly passed CLOUD Act renders the lawsuit meaningless. In U.S. v. Microsoft, federal law enforcement clashed with Microsoft over the validity of a Stored Communications Act warrant for data stored on a server in Dublin. The CLOUD Act creates clear new procedures for procuring legal orders for data in these kinds of cross-border situations. In last week's motion to vacate, DOJ disclosed that it had procured a new warrant under the CLOUD Act.
Communications

The FCC Is Refusing To Release Emails About Ajit Pai's 'Harlem Shake' Video (vice.com) 84

bumblebaetuna writes from a report via Motherboard: On the eve of the net neutrality repeal, just as tensions and public debate over the issue were reaching a fever pitch, someone in the FCC decided it would be a good idea to have chair Ajit Pai ridicule legitimate concerns of internet users with a video featuring an outdated meme and a pizzagate conspiracy theorist. Now, citing the infamous b5 FOIA exemption, the Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release emails related to the planning of the video. The b5 exemption is supposed to protect "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters which would be privileged in civil litigation," but each agency interprets that meaning differently.
Businesses

Online Gaming Could Be Stalled by Net Neutrality Repeal, ESA Tells Court (arstechnica.com) 152

A video game industry lobby group is joining the lawsuit that seeks to reinstate net neutrality rules in the US, saying that the net neutrality repeal could harm multiplayer online games that require robust Internet connections. From a report: The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) yesterday filed a motion for leave to intervene so that it can support the case against the Federal Communications Commission. The lawsuit, filed by a mix of Democratic state attorneys general, tech companies such as Mozilla, and consumer advocacy groups, seeks to reverse the FCC's December 2017 vote to eliminate net neutrality rules. The ESA said its members will be harmed by the repeal "because the FCC's Order permits ISPs to take actions that could jeopardize the fast, reliable, and low-latency connections that are critical to the video game industry."
Youtube

YouTube Will Increase Security At All Offices Worldwide Following Shooting (theverge.com) 495

Following the shooting at YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, California, yesterday, the company has announced plans to increase security at all of its offices worldwide. YouTube says this is intended to "make them more secure not only in the near term, but long-term." The Verge reports: The move reflects a growing concern in Silicon Valley that the effects of increasingly toxic and partisan online behavior may translate into violent offline actions. YouTube's statement was released through Google's Twitter account for communications; it's not clear whether Google itself will be implementing stronger security measures beyond YouTube. The shooter, 39-year-old Nasim Aghdam of San Diego, died yesterday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting and injuring three employees. From police reports, testimony from Aghdam's family members, and extensive traces of the woman's online behavior on YouTube and other platforms, we now know that Aghdam was disgruntled over the demonetizing of her videos and harm to her financial well-being.
The Internet

One of Estonia's First 'e-Residents' Explains What It Means To Have Digital Citizenship 76

An anonymous reader shares a report from Quartz, written by Estonian e-Resident April Rinne: In 2014, Estonia, a country previously known as much for its national singing revolution as anything else, became the first country in the world to launch an e-Residency program. Once admitted, e-Residents can conduct business worldwide as if they were from Estonia, which is a member of the EU. They are given government-issued digital IDs, can open Estonian bank and securities accounts, form and register Estonian companies, and have a front-row seat as nascent concepts of digital and virtual citizenship evolve. There is no requirement to have a physical presence in Estonia. [...] Three years in, what I find most incredible about e-Residency is that it actually works.

E-Residency was appealing to me for several reasons (none of which include dodging the law, taxes, or other civic responsibilities). I have Finnish heritage and for many years was intrigued by Finland's "smaller neighbor." And, I'd just joined an Estonian startup as an advisor. Becoming an e-Resident would allow me to receive payment from clients in Euros from any company without worrying about currency fluctuations, and to own shares in the company (previously this would have required various administrative work-arounds). [...] At a basic level, e-Residency makes working overall simpler and, ideally, more streamlined. This plays out in many ways, depending on the type of worker or organization. For example, many bona fide small- and mid-sized companies in other regions simply could not get access to European markets. The costs of entry and other requirements made it prohibitively cumbersome. E-Residency gives them a new avenue to do this; they still have to prove their merits, but the playing field is more level. For independent entrepreneurs, especially those working in different countries, Estonia makes the entire process of establishing and maintaining a small business easier, faster and more affordable. In my case, I'm able to transact, bank, and sign documents easily. I still maintain my U.S. presence -- because a non-trivial amount of my portfolio is in the U.S., and I maintain a range of local commitments and community -- but many of my fellow e-Residents have shifted their entire enterprise to Estonia.
In conclusion, Rinne notes the imperfections of the residency: "multiple times I had to disable firewalls to get digital services to work, and the e-Residency team discovered a potential bug in late 2017 which led them to deactivate all ID cards until they could be updated through the internet." All in all the experience has been "useful beyond measure," Rinne writes. "It has enabled me to re-think not only how I work, but also the many ways in which the world of work itself is changing and emerging opportunities for the future."
Communications

WhatsApp Public Groups Can Leave User Data Vulnerable To Scraping (venturebeat.com) 18

An anonymous reader writes: WhatsApp differentiates itself from parent company Facebook by touting its end-to-end encryption. "Some of your most personal moments are shared with WhatsApp," the company writes on its website, so "your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands." But WhatsApp members may not be aware that when using the app's Group Chat feature, their data can be harvested by anyone in the group. What is worse, their mobile numbers can be used to identify and target them.

WhatsApp groups are designed to enable groups of up to 256 people to join a shared chat without having to go through a central administrator. Group originators can add contacts from their phones or create links enabling anyone to opt-in. These groups, which can be found through web searches, discuss topics as diverse as agriculture, politics, pornography, sports, and technology. Not all groups have links, but in those that do, anyone who finds the link can join the group. While all new joining members are announced to the group, they are not required to provide a name or otherwise identify themselves. This design could leave inattentive members open to targeting, as a new report from European researchers shows.
WhatsApp is used by more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.
United States

US Suspects Listening Devices in Washington (apnews.com) 137

For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminal could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. From a report: The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves -- have been silent on the issue until now. In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation's capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.

The agency's response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden's office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation's airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly. The devices work by tricking mobile devices into locking onto them instead of legitimate cell towers, revealing the exact location of a particular cellphone. More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware.

Communications

Tor Winds Down Its Encrypted Messenger App 3 Years After Launch (venturebeat.com) 21

The Tor Project has announced that it's winding down its privacy-focused Tor Messenger chat program, nearly three years after its beta debut. From a report: Tor, an acronym of "The Onion Router," is better known for its privacy-focused browser that directs traffic through a volunteer-run network of relays to prevent any untoward eavesdropping on users' online activity. Indeed, the Tor Browser is often used by activists, whistleblowers, and anyone wishing to remain anonymous, and major companies -- such as Facebook -- have embraced Tor over the years.

The people behind the anonymity network started working on Tor Messenger in early 2014, launched it in alpha a year later, before rolling out the beta version in October 2015, where it has remained since -- though there have been more than 10 separate beta releases. [...] In terms of why Tor Messenger is being sunsetted, well, there are a number of reasons. Arguably the most important of the reasons is that uptake wasn't quite where Tor wanted it to be at to justify working on it, while it also realized that it wasn't the perfect private messaging client due to its metadata problem.

Google

Google is Equipping More Rural School Buses With Wi-Fi and Chromebooks (theverge.com) 59

Google on Monday said it was formally expanding its Rolling Study Halls program, or school buses equipped with WiFi, computers and on-bus educators to help rural students with work beyond school hours. From a report: Google today announced an expansion of its Rolling Study Halls initiative to over 16 additional school districts, giving "thousands" of students access to Wi-Fi and Chromebooks on their buses. Google has piloted the program in North Carolina and South Carolina over the last couple years, focusing its efforts on rural communities where some students have lengthy bus rides between home and the classroom each day.

Providing students with dependable Wi-Fi before and after school is a boon for those who might lack broadband internet at home, giving them two opportunities daily to complete assignments or study for exams while on the bus. Google contributes mobile Wi-Fi routers, data plans, and Chromebook devices.

AT&T

Verizon Has Been the Fastest US Mobile Carrier in Last Six Months: Wirefly (wirefly.com) 33

Verizon was the fastest mobile carrier in the United States during Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, according to 2018 Internet Speed Rankings Report published by Wirefly. According to the report, Verizon Wireless offered its subscribers 19.92 Mbps "overall" Internet speed, followed by AT&T at 18.26 Mbps, T-Mobile at 17.29 Mbps, and Sprint finishing at last with 14.77 Mbps. (The report defines overall speed capability as a summation of download speed with a 90% weight, and upload speed with a 10% weight.) T-Mobile was ranked as the fastest Internet service provider by Wirefly in Q1 and Q2 2017.

Verizon was also the carrier with fastest average download and upload speeds during the aforementioned period. It offered 20.44 Mbps (down) and 15.26 Mbps (up), compared to AT&T, which offered an average of 19.11 Mbps download speed and 10.53 Mbps as its average upload speeds. You can read the full report here. The results were collected from the results of users using the Wirefly Internet Speed Test.

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