Businesses

Push Notifications From Popular Apps Are Becoming Increasingly Useless And Annoying (wired.com) 141

David Pierce, writing for Wired: Push notifications are ruining my life. Yours too, I bet. Download more than a few apps and the notifications become a non-stop, cacophonous waterfall of nonsense. Here's just part of an afternoon on my phone:
"Hi David! We found new Crown jewels and Bottle caps Pins for you!"
"Everyone's talking about Bill Nye's new book, Everything All at Once. Read a free sample."
"Alex just posted for the first time in a while."
I get notifications when an acquaintance comments on a stranger's Facebook posts, when shows I don't care about come to Netflix, and every single day at 6 PM when the crossword puzzle becomes available. Recently, I got a buzz from my close personal friends at Yelp. "We found a hot new business for you," it said. I opened the notification, on the off chance that Yelp had finally found the hot new business I've been waiting for. It did not. So I closed Yelp, stared into space for a second, and then opened Instagram. Productivity over. Over the last few years, there's been an increasingly loud call for a re-evaluation of the relationship between humans and smartphones. For all the good that phones do, their grip on our eyes, ears, and thoughts creates real and serious problems. "I know when I take [technology] away from my kids what happens," Tony Fadell, a former senior VP at Apple who helped invent both the iPod and the iPhone, said in a recent interview. "They literally feel like you're tearing a piece of their person away from them. They get emotional about it, very emotional. They go through withdrawal for two to three days." Smartphones aren't the problem. It's all the buzzing and dinging, endlessly calling for your attention.

Businesses

Pittsburgh Gets a Tech Makeover (nytimes.com) 39

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2015, Monocle magazine, a favorite read of the global hipsterati, published an enthusiastic report on Lawrenceville, the former blue-collar neighborhood here filled with cafes, hyped restaurants and brick rowhouses being renovated by flippers. Last year, in a much-publicized development, Uber began testing self-driving cars on the streets, putting this city at the forefront of the autonomous-vehicle revolution. Also last year, in a less publicized development, Jean Yang, 30, returned to this city after more than a decade of living in Boston, finding a Pittsburgh she hardly recognized from her 1990s childhood. And four months ago, Caesar Wirth, a 28-year-old software engineer, moved from Tokyo to work for a local tech start-up, Duolingo. These seemingly unrelated events have one thing in common: Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. Much has been made of the "food boom" in Pittsburgh, and the city has long had a thriving arts scene. But perhaps the secret, underlying driver for both the economy and the cool factor -- the reason Pittsburgh now gets mentioned alongside Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., as an urban hot spot for millennials -- isn't chefs or artists but geeks. In a 2014 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mayor Bill Peduto compared Carnegie Mellon, along with the University of Pittsburgh, to the iron ore factories that made this city an industrial power in the 19th century. The schools are the local resource "churning out that talent" from which the city is fueled. Because of the top students and research professors at Carnegie Mellon, tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber have opened offices here. The big tech firms, along with their highly skilled, highly paid workers, have made Pittsburgh younger and more international and helped to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and East Liberty. Indeed, East Liberty has become something of a tech hub, said Luis von Ahn, the co-founder and chief executive of Duolingo, a language-learning platform company with its headquarters in that neighborhood. Google Pittsburgh, with its more than 500 employees, also has part of its offices in East Liberty, as does AlphaLab, a start-up accelerator.
EU

Company Gets 45,000 Bad Facebook Reviews After Teenaged Hacker's Unjust Arrest (bleepingcomputer.com) 286

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Over 45,000 users have left one-star reviews on a company's Facebook page after the business reported a security researcher to police and had him arrested in the middle of the night instead of fixing a reported bug. The arrest took place this week in Hungary after an 18-year-old found a flaw in the online ticket-selling system of Budapesti Közlekedési Központ, Budapest's public transportation authority. The young man discovered that he could access BKK's website, press F12 to enter the browser's developer tools mode, and modify the page's source code to alter a ticket's price. Because there was no client or server-side validation put in place, the BKK system accepted the operation and issued a ticket at a smaller price...

The teenager -- who didn't want his name revealed -- reported the issue to BKK, but the organization chose to contact the police and file a complaint, accusing the young man of hacking their systems... BKK management made a fatal mistake when they brazenly boasted in a press conference about catching the hacker and declaring their systems "secure." Since then, other security flaws in BKK's system have surfaced on Twitter. As details of the case emerged, public outrage grew against BKK and its manager Kálmán Dabóczi, especially after it was revealed that BKK was paying around $1 million per year for maintenance of its IT systems, hacked in such a ludicrously simple manner.

Communications

Ask Slashdot: Someone Else Is Using My Email Address 548

periklisv writes: I daily receive emails from adult dating sites, loan services, government agencies, online retailers etc, all of them either asking me to verify my account, or, even worse, having signed me up to their service (especially dating sites), which makes me really uncomfortable, my being a married man with children... I was one of the early lucky people that registered a gmail address using my lastname@gmail.com. This has proven pretty convenient over the years, as it's simple and short, which makes it easy to communicate over the phone, write down on applications etc. However, over the past six months, some dude in Australia (I live in the EU) who happens to have the same last name as myself is using it to sign up to all sorts of services...

I tried to locate the person on Facebook, Twitter etc and contacted a few that seemed to match, but I never got a response. So the question is, how do you cope with such a case, especially nowadays that sites seem to ignore the email verification for signups?

Leave your best answers in the comments. What would you do if someone else started giving out your email address?
Facebook

Facebook Petitioned To Change License For ReactJS (github.com) 42

mpol writes: The Apache Software Foundation issued a notice last weekend indicating that it has added Facebook's BSD+Patents [ROCKSDB] license to its Category X list of disallowed licenses for Apache Project Management Committee members. This is the license that Facebook uses for most of its open source projects. The RocksDB software project from Facebook already changed its license to a dual Apache 2 and GPL 2. Users are now petitioning on GitHub to have Facebook change the license of React.JS as well.

React.JS is a well-known and often used JavaScript Framework for frontend development. It is licensed as BSD + Patents. If you use React.JS and agreed to its license, and you decide to sue Facebook for patent issues, you are no longer allowed to use React.JS or any Facebook software released under this license.

The Almighty Buck

Norway, the Country Where No Salaries Are Secret (bbc.com) 211

In Norway, there are no such secrets. Anyone can find out how much anyone else is paid -- and it rarely causes problems. From a report: In the past, your salary was published in a book. A list of everyone's income, assets and the tax they had paid, could be found on a shelf in the public library. These days, the information is online, just a few keystrokes away. The change happened in 2001, and it had an instant impact. "It became pure entertainment for many," says Tom Staavi, a former economics editor at the national daily, VG. "At one stage you would automatically be told what your Facebook friends had earned, simply by logging on to Facebook. It was getting ridiculous." Transparency is important, Staavi says, partly because Norwegians pay high levels of income tax -- an average of 40.2 percent compared to 33.3 percent in the UK, according to Eurostat, while the EU average is just 30.1 percent. "When you pay that much you have to know that everyone else is doing it, and you have to know that the money goes to something reasonable," he says. "We [need to] have trust and confidence in both the tax system and in the social security system."
Businesses

Google, Apple, Amazon Hit Record Lobbying Highs (axios.com) 84

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

Apple Flies Top Privacy Executives Into Australia To Lobby Against Proposed Encryption Laws (patentlyapple.com) 64

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

Google To Add 'News Feed' To Website and App (bbc.com) 48

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google is adding a personalised Facebook-style news feed to its homepage -- Google.com -- to show users content they may be interested in before they search. It will display news stories, features, videos and music chosen on the basis of previous searches by the same user. Users will also be able to click a "follow" button on search results to add topics of interest to their feed. One analyst said the move would help Google compete with rivals. "Google has a strong incentive to make search as useful as possible," said Mattia Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis. "Facebook's news feed is one of its main rivals. It is competing with other ways of accessing content."
Facebook

Facebook Is Looking Into Allowing Paywall For Selected Media Stories (techcrunch.com) 35

New submitter sarbonn writes: Facebook is testing whether or not it can start charging for stories by placing a paywall that appears after ten stories have been viewed from one of its media sources. An interesting takeaway is that Facebook would like to do this by avoiding the mandatory 30 percent cut that Apple and Google get from their stores by going around their app stores. This is being targeted for around October. The news comes from Campbell Brown, who heads Facebook's new partnerships business. "We are in early talks with several news publishers about how we might better support subscription business models on Facebook. As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we are taking the time to work closely together with our partners and understand their needs," Brown told TechCrunch in a statement via a spokesperson.
China

China's Censors Can Now Erase Images Mid-Transmission (wsj.com) 90

Eva Dou, reporting for WSJ: China's already formidable internet censors have demonstrated a new strength -- the ability to delete images in one-on-one chats as they are being transmitted, making them disappear before receivers see them. The ability is part of a broader technology push by Beijing's censors to step up surveillance and get ahead of activists and others communicating online in China (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Displays of this new image-filtering capability kicked into high gear last week as Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo lay dying from liver cancer and politically minded Chinese tried to pay tribute to him, according to activists and a new research report. Wu Yangwei, a friend of the long-jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said he used popular messaging app WeChat to send friends a photo of a haggard Mr. Liu embracing his wife. Mr. Wu believed the transmissions were successful, but he said his friends never saw them. "Sometimes you can get around censors by rotating the photo," said Mr. Wu, a writer better known by his pen name, Ye Du. "But that doesn't always work." There were disruptions on Tuesday to another popular messaging app, Facebook's WhatsApp, with many China-based users saying they were unable to send photos and videos without the use of software that circumvents Chinese internet controls. Text messages appeared to be largely unaffected.
Communications

Amazon May Unveil Its Own Messaging App (engadget.com) 87

The messaging app field is as hot as ever with Apple, Facebook and Google (among others) slugging it out... and Amazon appears to want in on the action. From a report: AFTVnews claims to have customer survey info revealing that Amazon is working on Anytime, a messaging app for Android, iOS and the desktop that promises a few twists on the usual formula. It has mainstays like message encryption, video, voice and (of course) stickers, but it reportedly has a few hooks that would make it easy to sign up and participate in group chats. You would only need a name to reach out to someone, for one thing -- no WhatsApp-style dependence on phone numbers here. You only have to use Twitter-style @ mentions to bring people into conversations or share photos, and you can color-code chats to identify the most important ones. Naturally, there are app-like functions (such as group music listening and food ordering) and promises of chatting with businesses for shopping or customer service.
Australia

Crypto-Bashing Prime Minister Argues The Laws Of Mathematics Don't Apply In Australia (independent.co.uk) 328

An anonymous reader quotes the Independent:Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the laws of mathematics come second to the law of the land in a row over privacy and encryption... When challenged by a technology journalist over whether it was possible to tackle the problem of criminals using encryption -- given that platform providers claim they are currently unable to break into the messages even if required to do so by law -- the Prime Minister raised eyebrows as he made his reply. "Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia," he said... "The important thing is to recognise the challenge and call on the companies for assistance. I am sure they know morally they should... They have to face up to their responsibility."
Facebook has already issued a statement saying that they "appreciate the important work law enforcement does, and we understand the need to carry out investigations. That's why we already have a protocol in place to respond to any requests we can.

"At the same time, weakening encrypted systems for them would mean weakening it for everyone."
AI

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

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

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

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

Australia To Compel Technology Firms To Provide Access To Encrypted Missives (reuters.com) 230

Australia on Friday proposed new laws to compel companies such as U.S. social media giant Facebook and device manufacturer Apple to provide security agencies access to encrypted messages. From a report: The measures will be the first in an expected wave of global legislation as pressure mounts on technology companies to provide such access after several terror suspects used encrypted applications ahead of attacks. Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, is on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since 2014 and authorities have said they have thwarted several plots, although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said law enforcement needed more help. "We need to ensure the internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law," Turnbull told reporters in Sydney. "The reality is, however, that these encrypted messaging applications and voice applications are being used obviously by all of us, but they're also being used by people who seek to do us harm."
Businesses

Europe Says Employers Must Warn Job Applicants Before Checking Them Out on Social Media (cnn.com) 221

Europe has a message for employers: Think twice before you check the social media profiles of job applicants. From a report: European officials have issued new guidelines that warn bosses about the legal hazards of scrolling through the social media profiles of potential hires. The rules require employers to issue a disclaimer before they check applicants' online accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn. If applicants don't see the warning, the company could be in breach of European Union data protection rules. Employers are also barred from compiling social media data as part of the hiring process unless it is "necessary and relevant" for a particular job. The guidelines are part of a lengthy document clarifying data protection laws that apply to employers across 28 EU countries.
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Hits the Road To Meet Regular Folks -- With a Few Conditions (foxbusiness.com) 254

Mark Zuckerberg is trying to understand America, so he's embarked on a journey to meet people like hockey moms and steelworkers who don't typically cross his path. But there are rules to abide by if you are an ordinary person about to meet an extraordinary entrepreneur. From a report: Rule One: You probably won't know Mr. Zuckerberg is coming. Rule Two: If you do know he's coming, keep it to yourself. Rule Three: Be careful what you reveal about the meeting. While the Facebook CEO has built a social network that inspired people around the world to share the most intimate details about their personal lives, his team goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his movements under wraps and control how he is perceived. Midway through a "personal challenge" to travel to 30 states he'd never visited, the 33-year old aims "to talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future," he wrote in January on his Facebook page. Among those people was Kyle McKasson, manager of the Wilton Candy Kitchen, a century-old shop on the town square in Wilton, Iowa. He was at work one Monday afternoon in June when two men and a woman dressed in jeans and button-down shirts entered the store, which is a regular stop on Iowa's presidential campaign circuit.
Businesses

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

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

EFF's Latest Privacy Report Criticizes Amazon and WhatsApp Over Policies That 'Fall Short' (betanews.com) 12

An anonymous reader shares a report: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the latest edition of its "Who has your back" privacy report. This is the seventh report from the digital rights group, and this year it criticizes both WhatsApp and Amazon for having policies that "fall short of other similar technology companies." Four big telecom companies -- AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon -- performed very poorly, while at the other end of the scale Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and WordPress were all praised. In all, the report rates 26 technology companies in five key areas relating to privacy and government data requests: "Follows industry-wide best practices," "Tells users about government data requests," "Promises not to sell out users," "Stands up to NSL gag orders" and "Pro-user public policy: Reform 702." While the report points out that some progress has been made, generally speaking, in the technology world, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon were all awarded a single star out of a possible five. Amazon and WhatsApp both scored just two out of five, leading the Electronic Freedom Foundation to say: "We urge both Amazon and WhatsApp to improve their policies in the coming year so they match the standards of other major online services."
Facebook

Facebook Messenger Globally Tests Injecting Display Ads Into Inbox (techcrunch.com) 71

From a TechCrunch report: Messaging is the center of mobile, and Facebook wants ads in front of all those eyes. After seeing "promising results from Australia and Thailand," Facebook Messenger is expanding its display ad beta test that lets businesses buy space between your chat threads. Later this month, a small percentage of users will start seeing ads in the Messenger app's home tab. Facebook tells TechCrunch that where these ads appear in the inbox "depends on how many threads a user has, the size of their phone's physical screen and the pixel density of the display." Over the next month, Facebook will gradually roll out Messenger ads to all advertisers globally. They'll have the ability to buy through the Ads Manager or Power Editor, with Messenger becoming one of the automatic placements for Facebook ads alongside the main Facebook app, Instagram and the Audience Network of other apps and sites. Ads aren't targeted by what people write in messages, and instead use the same Facebook targeting, measurement tools and minimum 50 percent pixels in view standard for viewability.

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