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Google

Google's Allo App Can Reveal To Your Friends What You've Searched (recode.net) 61

Google's new messaging app Allo can reveal your search history and other personal information when you include the Google Assistant bot in chats, according to a report. From the article: My friend directed Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But the response was not merely a nonsequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier. [...] When I asked "What is my job?" in my conversation with my friend, Assistant responded by sharing a Google Maps image showing the address at which I used to work -- the address of a co-working space, not the publicly listed address of my previous employer. Google had the address on file because I had included it in my personal Google Maps settings. It did not ask my permission to share that.
AT&T

DirecTV Admits Screwing Up Regional Sports Fees, Starts Issuing Credits (arstechnica.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T this week acknowledged that DirecTV has been charging the wrong regional sports fees to some customers and is now issuing bill credits to those who paid more because of the mistake. "We have identified a small percentage of customers who are receiving some inaccurate bills for regional sports network fees," an AT&T spokesperson told Ars yesterday. "We are working as quickly as possible to notify those customers and issue credits. We apologize for the error." AT&T bought DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite TV provider with about 21 million customers, in 2015. The mistake affects bills going back to late January. Customers will not have to do anything to get the credit, as it will be issued automatically. The billing problem came to light last week when Consumerist published a report detailing how the regional sports network fees vary by ZIP code in ways that simply didn't make sense. It wouldn't be surprising to see different fees in different metro areas and states, since different local sports networks and teams are broadcast in different areas. But there were numerous cases in which people in adjacent ZIP codes were charged very different amounts to watch the same exact networks and teams. Some customers were charged no sports fee, while others were charged amounts of $2.47, $5.83, or $7.29 a month.
Businesses

GitLab Acquires Software Chat Startup Gitter, Will Open-Source the Code (venturebeat.com) 28

According to VentureBeat, "GitLab, a startup that provides open source and premium source code repository software that people use to collaborate on software, is announcing today that it has acquired Gitter, a startup that provides chat rooms that are attached to repositories of code so that collaborators can exchange messages." From the report: GitLab won't bundle it in its community edition or its enterprise edition yet, but it will open-source the Gitter code for others to build on, GitLab cofounder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij told VentureBeat in an interview. What's happening now, though, is that as part of GitLab, Gitter is launching a new feature called Topics, where people will be able to ask and answer questions -- sort of like Stack Overflow. "Although Gitter is best in class with indexing things, it's still sometimes hard to find things," Sijbrandij said. "In this Q&A product, it's a lot easier to structure the Q&A. You're not dealing so much with a chronological timeline where people have different conversations that cross each other. There's a location for every piece of knowledge, and it can grow over time." That technology is already available in beta in Gitter rooms on GitHub, and it will become available on GitLab's Gitter pages over time, Sijbrandij said.
Software

Uber Is Using In-App Podcasts To Dissuade Seattle Drivers From Unionizing (theverge.com) 102

Uber doesn't like unionization, like many corporations. In January, the company sued the city of Seattle to challenge the city's authority to implement a law that would allow ride-share drivers to unionize. The Verge is reporting today that the company has been using in-app podcasts to dissuade their Seattle drivers from unionizing by explaining, in their view, how the city's unionization law would negatively affect drivers. From the report: Uber spokesperson Nathan Hambley pushed back on a story from The Wall Street Journal over the weekend that suggested Uber drivers in Seattle were forced to choose whether or not to listen to the company-produced podcasts every day before they can begin picking up riders. The podcasts, which are produced in a number of geographic markets for Uber drivers, appear as notifications at the bottom of the app that can be dismissed or ignored -- or acted upon to start the latest podcast episode, which usually run under 10 minutes. Drivers are not required to listen to the podcast, said Hambley in an interview. "They are not required to look down at the notification at all. The most prominent button is to go on or offline to accept rides." The notification first appears as the limited message on the left, and, if the driver swipes up, the full message appears. The notification remains at the bottom of the driver screen regardless of whether it is ignored, or if the podcast is listened to or not.
Communications

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Allegedly Used Email Alias As Exxon CEO (arstechnica.com) 171

According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rex Tillerson used an email alias of "Wayne Tracker" to communicate with other Exxon executives about climate change while serving as CEO of Exxon Mobil. "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been leading an investigation of Exxon Mobil centered on whether the company misled investors by publicly arguing against the reality of climate change even though its executives knew the science was accurate," reports Ars Technica. "The investigation was triggered by news reports describing climate research the company undertook in the 1970s and 1980s, which affirmed the work of other climate scientists and showed that greenhouse gas emissions were causing climate change. Exxon buried that work and spent the next couple decades claiming that the science was unclear, although it has recently publicly acknowledged reality." From the report: The e-mails that were provided allowed the attorney general to figure out that Tillerson used the account between 2008 and 2015 at least, but it didn't appear on Exxon's list of accounts for which records were preserved. The letter also mentions 34 other e-mail accounts "specifically assigned to top executives, board members, or assistants" that the attorney general thinks should have been included. In a statement, an Exxon spokesperson explained, "The e-mail address, Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com, is part of the company's e-mail system and was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." The Office of the Attorney General's letter claims that "Exxon has continuously delayed and obstructed the production of documents from its top executives and board members, which are crucial to OAG's investigation into Exxon's touted risk-management practices regarding climate change."
Government

Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails (businessinsider.com) 67

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief in support of Google, after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the company had to hand over emails stored overseas in response to an FBI warrant. From a report: An amicus brief is filed by people or companies who have an interest in the case, but aren't directly involved. In this case, it's in Silicon Valley's interest to keep US law enforcement from accessing customer data stored outside the US. It isn't clear what data Google might have to hand over and, last month, the company said it would fight to the order. In the brief, the companies argue: "When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States -- in the place where the customers' private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer's consent."
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Solve the Instant Messaging Problem? 456

Artem Tashkinov writes: The XKCD comics has posted a wonderful and exceptionally relevant post in regard to the today's situation with various instant messaging solutions. E-mail has served us well in the past, however, it's not suitable for any real-time communications involving video and audio. XMPP was a nice idea, however, it has largely failed except for a low number of geeks who stick to it. Nowadays, some people install up to seven instant messengers to be able to keep up with various circles of people. How do you see this situation being resolved?

People desperately need a universal solution which is secure, decentralized, fault tolerant, not attached to your phone number, protects your privacy, supports video and audio chats and sending of files, works behind NATs and other firewalls and has the ability to send offline messages. I believe we need a modern version of SMTP. [How would you solve the instant messaging problem?]
United States

IEEE-USA Criticizes Failure To Reform The H-!B Program (ieee.org) 239

Slashdot reader Tekla Perry writes: IEEE USA says H-1B visas are a tool used to avoid paying U.S. wages. "For every visa used by Google to hire a talented non-American for $126,000, ten Americans are replaced by outsourcing companies paying their H-1B workers $65,000," says the current IEEE USA president, writing with the past president and president-elect. The outsourcing companies, Infosys, Cognizant, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy in 2014 "used 21,695 visas, or more than 25 percent of all private-sector H-1B visas used that year. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Uber, for comparison, used only 1,763 visas, or 2 percent," they say.
On Friday, IEEE-USA also issued a new criticism about the lack of progress in reforming the H-1B program, saying "At least 50,000 Americans will lose their jobs this year because the president has yet to fulfill the promise he made to millions who voted for him."
Verizon

Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (theverge.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T's book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.) This builds on Verizon's previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans' 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon's marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
Network

T-Mobile Raises Deprioritization Threshold To 30GB (tmonews.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile's new deprioritization threshold is 30GB of usage in a single billing cycle. While T-Mo didn't make an official announcement about the change, you can see in this cached page that the network management policy says 28GB: "Based on network statistics for the most recent quarter, customers who use more than 28GB of data during a billing cycle will have their data usage prioritized below other customers' data usage for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources." Navigating to the webpage today now says 30GB. What this change means is that if you use more than 30GB of data in one billing cycle, your data usage will be prioritized below others for the remainder of that billing cycle. The only time that you're likely to see the effects of that, though, is when you're at a location on the network that is congested, during which time you may see slower speeds. Once you move to a different location or the congestion goes down, your speeds will likely go back up. And once the new billing cycle rolls around, your usage will be reset.
Google

Google Hangouts' New Features Make Work Meetings Slightly Less Annoying (cnet.com) 65

Google is rolling out two new features in its communication and messaging app, Hangouts. From a report: (Unfortunately, neither tools help decrease the utterances of such phrases like "How will this scale?" and "Run it up the flagpole.") The first is a video conferencing feature called Hangouts Meet. Meet allows people to hop on meetings via a web link through their laptops or mobile app. This link can be shared in an email or directly through a Google Calendar invite. Colleagues who are traveling without Internet can use a dedicated dial-in phone number. The second feature is Hangouts Chat, which lets coworkers message each other in dedicated chat rooms.
AT&T

FCC Investigating Coast-To-Coast 911 Outage For AT&T Wireless Users (nbcnews.com) 53

AT&T says it has fixed a nationwide outage that prevented its wireless customers from making 911 emergency calls. "Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected," the company officials said in a statement. The outage was serious enough to gain the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, said via Twitter that they are investigating what went wrong. NBC News reports: The company didn't say how widespread the outage was, but as reports poured in from across the country, Karima Holmes, director of unified communications for the Washington, D.C., government, said her office had been "advised there is a nationwide outage for AT&T." At 10:20 p.m. ET, about 10 minutes before AT&T gave the all-clear, DownDetector, a site that monitors internet traffic for real-time information on wireless and broadband carriers, indicated that outage reports for AT&T were clustered most prominently around New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. But emergency authorities across the country confirmed 911 outages and publicized direct police, fire and ambulance dispatch telephone numbers that AT&T customers should call in emergencies.
Security

Ask Slashdot: Should You Use Password Managers? 415

New submitter informaticsDude writes: What do Slashdot users recommend regarding the use of password managers? The recent election underscored the hackability of many personal accounts. One solution is to use different passwords for every digital experience. But, of course, humans are lousy at remembering large numbers of large random strings. Another solution is to use a password manager. However, password managers have been hacked in the past, in which case you lose everything. How do Slashdot users balance the competing risks? What is a person to do?
Republicans

GOP Senators' New Bill Would Let ISPs Sell Your Web Browsing Data (arstechnica.com) 300

Yesterday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and 23 Republican co-sponsors introduced a resolution that would overturn new privacy rules for internet service providers. "If the Federal Communications Commission rules are eliminated, ISPs would not have to get consumers' explicit consent before selling or sharing web browsing data and other privacy information with advertisers and other third parties," reports Ars Technica. "The measure would use lawmakers' power under the Congressional Review Act to ensure that the FCC rulemaking 'shall have no force or effect.' The resolution would also prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future." From the report: Flake's announcement said he's trying to "protect consumers from overreaching Internet regulation." Flake also said that the resolution "empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared," but he did not explain how it will achieve that. The privacy order had several major components. The requirement to get the opt-in consent of consumers before sharing information covered geo-location data, financial and health information, children's information, Social Security numbers, Web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communications. This requirement is supposed to take effect on December 4, 2017. The rulemaking had a data security component that required ISPs to take "reasonable" steps to protect customers' information from theft and data breaches. This was supposed to take effect on March 2, but the FCC under newly appointed Chairman Ajit Pai halted the rule's implementation. Another set of requirements related to data breach notifications is scheduled to take effect on June 2. Flake's resolution would prevent all of those requirements from being implemented. He said that this "is the first step toward restoring the [Federal Trade Commission's] light-touch, consumer-friendly approach." Giving the FTC authority over Internet service providers would require further FCC or Congressional action because the FTC is not allowed to regulate common carriers, a designation currently applied to ISPs.
Google

Google AMP Is Rolling Out For 1 Billion People In Asia-Pacific Region (meshrepublic.com) 48

meshrepublic shares a report: As per the latest announcement, Google AMP is rolling out for 1 billion people in Asia Pacific. Baidu and Sogou, which account for around 90% of the search market in China, made the announcement on the opening day of the first AMP developer conference which is taking place in New York. Also, Yahoo Japan will connect to AMP pages from their Search results. This will bring all the benefits of AMP to their 58m daily users in Japan. With the addition of these search giant's, means, a billion more people will be using Google Accelerated Mobile Pages. Per Google research, 70 percent of conventional mobile pages take seven to 10 seconds for visual page content to load. By comparison, AMP pages' load in less than one second, on average.
Communications

The Dark Web Has Shrunk By 85% (bleepingcomputer.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: The number of Dark web services has gone down significantly following the Freedom Hosting II hack that took place at the start of February, and only consists of around 4,400 services, according to a recently published OnionScan report. Previous research published in April 2016 by threat intelligence firm Deep Light had the total number of Dark Web services at around 30,000. Comparing the two numbers, the report shows a decrease of over 85% in the overall size of Dark Web in the last year alone. According to the recent OnionScan statistics, the Dark Web is laughably small, with around 4,000 HTTP websites, 250 TLS (HTTPS) endpoints, 100 SMTP services, and only 10 FTP nodes.
United States

Americans Are Having Less Sex Than 20 Years Ago, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 391

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: American adults reported having nine fewer romps a year in the early 2010s than they did in the late 1990s -- dropping from an average of about 62 times a year between 1995 and 2000 to around 53 a year between 2010 and 2014. Researchers saw declines across ages, races, religions, education levels, employment statuses, and regions. They linked the sagging numbers to two trends: an increase in singletons over that period -- who tend to have less sex than married or partnered people -- plus a slow-down in the sex lives of married and coupled people. But the drivers of those trends are still unclear. The study is based on data from a long-standing national survey called the General Social Survey (GSS). It involves a nationally representative sample of Americans over 18 years old, surveyed most years between 1972 and 2014. The new study involved responses from 26,620 Americans. Specifically, researchers found that married people's annual whoopee frequency dropped from an average of nearly 69 in the 1995-2000 period to just below 56 in the 2010-2014 period. The unmarried saw their lovemaking drop from 54 per year to 51 in the same timeframes. Meanwhile, the number of people without steady partners -- married or otherwise -- rose from 26 percent of survey respondents in 2006 to 33 percent in 2014. People who took the biggest hits in the bedroom since the 1990s were those with a college degree (about 15 fewer times a year) and people living in the South (about 13 fewer times a year). The study has been published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Education

University of California, Berkeley, To Delete Publicly Available Educational Content (insidehighered.com) 337

In response to a U.S. Justice Department order that requires colleges and universities make website content accessible for citizens with disabilities and impairments, the University of California, Berkeley, will cut off public access to tens of thousands of video lectures and podcasts. Officials said making the videos and audio more accessible would have proven too costly in comparison to removing them. Inside Higher Ed reports: Today, the content is available to the public on YouTube, iTunes U and the university's webcast.berkeley site. On March 15, the university will begin removing the more than 20,000 audio and video files from those platforms -- a process that will take three to five months -- and require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them. The university will continue to offer massive open online courses on edX and said it plans to create new public content that is accessible to listeners or viewers with disabilities. The Justice Department, following an investigation in August, determined that the university was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The department reached that conclusion after receiving complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, saying Berkeley's free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues. Cathy Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, made the announcement in a March 1 statement: "This move will also partially address recent findings by the Department of Justice, which suggests that the YouTube and iTunes U content meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available. Finally, moving our content behind authentication allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from 'pirates' who have reused content for personal profit without consent."
Patents

Sprint Wins $140M Verdict Against Time Warner Cable For Infringing VoIP Patents (arstechnica.com) 18

Sprint "may have just scored its biggest payout yet," reports Ars Technica, pointing out that Sprint's been filing lawsuits over its VoIP patents for more than a decade. An anonymous reader quotes their report: On Friday, a jury in Sprint's home district of Kansas City said that Time Warner Cable, now part of Charter Communications, must pay $139.8 million for infringing several patents related to VoIP technology. The jury found that TWC's infringement was willful, which means that the judge could increase the damage award up to three times its value... Sprint filed the lawsuits that led to Friday's verdict in 2011, when it sued TWC along with Comcast, Cox, and Cable One, saying the competing companies violated 12 different Sprint VoIP patents.
The article points out that Comcast's response was to immediately file a countersuit, which so far has resulted in an early $7.5 million verdict in their favor.
Communications

New Technique Turns Random Objects Into FM Radio Stations (thestack.com) 69

"A new technology is enabling everyday objects, such as posters and clothing, to be transformed into FM radio stations," reports The Stack, citing research from the University of Washington. An anonymous reader quotes their report. The team has introduced a technique called "backscattering" which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope that the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.

During testing, the researchers were able to use the backscattering technique to create a "singing poster" which could send out the music of an advertised band to smartphone users at a distance of up to 4 meters and to cars in an 18-meter [59-foot] radius. "What we want to do is enable smart cities and fabrics where everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you by sending information to your phone or car," explained lead faculty and UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering Shyam Gollakota.

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