Just a few days after General Mills changed its policies to declare that people who so much as "liked" their page on Facebook thereby waived their right to sue the company in favor of arbitration, the company has reversed itself: "The announcement resulted in huge backlash on social media, as well as from consumer groups. Legal experts expressed doubts it could ever be enforced. Hamline Law Professor David Schultz appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning. “When I first saw this earlier this week I said this is questionable at best from a legal point of view,” he said. “From a marketing point of view, it’s a dumb idea, too, but legally it didn’t rest on very sound grounds so it’s not a surprise that they are reversing it. The lawyers at General Mills should have known better.”
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theodp (442580) writes "'The government is not the only American power whose motivations need to be rigourously examined,' writes The Telegraph's Katherine Rushton. 'Some 2,400 miles away from Washington, in Silicon Valley, Google is aggressively gaining power with little to keep it in check. It has cosied up to governments around the world so effectively that its chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a White House advisor. In Britain, its executives meet with ministers more than almost any other corporation. Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders, but it is up to governments to push back. As things stand, Google — and to a lesser extent, Facebook — are in danger of becoming the architects of the law.' Schmidt, by the way, is apparently interested in influencing at least two current hot-button White House issues. Joined by execs from Apple, Oracle, and Facebook, the Google Chairman asserted in a March letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S.; the Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the pipeline, perhaps until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections. And as a 'Major Contributor' to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, Schmidt is also helping to shape public opinion on the White House's call for immigration reform; FWD.us just launched new attack ads (videos) and a petition aimed at immigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King. In Dave Eggers' The Circle, politicians who impede the company execs' agenda are immediately brought down. But that's fiction, right?"
paroneayea writes: "GNU MediaGoblin and the Free Software Foundation have jointly run a campaign for privacy and federation on the web. The campaign is in its last day but has already passed the first two funding milestones, and is hoping to raise more with the possibility of bringing in multiple dedicated resources to the project. The project has also released a full financial transparency report so donors can know how they can expect their money to be used!"
sandbagger (654585) writes "The New York Times reports that General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, or 'join' it in social media communities. Who'd have imagined that clicking like requires a EULA?"
This is an interview with Graham Morrison, who is one of four people behind the shiny-new Linux Voice magazine, which is printed on (gasp) paper. Yes, paper, even though it's 2014 and a lot of people believe the idea of publishing a physical newspaper or magazine is dead. But, Graham says, when you have a tight community (like Linux users and developers) you have an opportunity to make a successful magazine for that community. This is a crowdfunded venture, through Indiegogo, where they hoped to raise £90,000 -- but ended up with £127,603, which is approximately $214,288 as of this video's publishing date. So they have a little capital to work with. Also note: these are not publishing neophytes. All four of the main people behind Linux Voice used to work on the well-regarded Linux Format magazine. Graham says they're getting subscribers and newsstand sales at a healthy rate, so they're happily optimistic about their magazine's future. (Here's an alternate video link)
guises writes: "A recent story discussing the cover of Byte Magazine reminded me of just how much we've lost with the death of print media. The Internet isn't what took down Byte, but a lot of other really excellent publications have fallen by the wayside as a result of the shift away from the printed page. We're not quite there yet, though. There seem to still be some holdouts, so I'm asking Slashdot: what magazines (or zines, or newsletters, or newspapers) are still hanging around that are worth subscribing to?"
theodp (442580) writes "As Google Glass goes on sale [ed: or rather, went on sale] to the general public, GeekWire reports that Bill Gates has already snagged one patent for 'detecting and responding to an intruding camera' and has another in the works. The invention proposes to equip computer and device displays with technology for detecting and responding to any cameras in the vicinity by editing or blurring the content on the screen, or alerting the user to the presence of the camera. Gates and Nathan Myhrvold are among the 16 co-inventors of the so-called Unauthorized Viewer Detection System and Method, which the patent application notes is useful 'while a user is taking public transportation, where intruding cameras are likely to be present.' So, is Bill's patent muse none other than NYC subway rider Sergey Brin?" A more cynical interpretation: closing the analog hole. Vaguely related, mpicpp pointed out that Google filed a patent for cameras embedded in contact lenses.
Late Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced (PDF) the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners. The public service prize was awarded to the Guardian and the Washington Post. The Washington Post was given the award for its role in revealing widespread surveillance by the NSA, "...marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security," and the Guardian for sparking "...a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy." Snowden released a statement praising the Pulitzer board: "Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance. This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. "
barlevg (2111272) writes "In May 2012, in the midst of an FTC investigation into Google's search practices, the law school at George Mason University in Northern Virginia hosted a conference attended by congressmen, regulators and staffers. The topic: competition, search and social media. What none of the attendees of the conference knew was that Google was pulling many of the strings behind the event, even going so far as to suggest invited speakers. This event, as documented in The Washington Post is just a snapshot of the operations of one of the largest and highest spending lobbying entities in DC, a far cry from the one-man shop it started out as nine years ago, from a company "disdainful" of Washington's "pay-to-play" culture."
Lucas123 writes: "Several high profile protests have circulated across the Web in the past few weeks, garnering social and news media attention — and even forcing the resignation of one high-level executive. There are two components driving the trend in Internet protests: They tend to be effective against Web services, and online networks allow people to mobilize quickly. According to a study released last month by Georgetown University's Center for Social Impact Communication, active Web useres are likely to do far more for a cause than simply 'like' it on a website. And, because a few clicks can cancel a service, their actions carry weight. But there may be a coming backlash as people can grow tired of online activism; and corporations may also take a more proactive stance in response to them."
hackingbear writes: "Qin Zhihui, a user of the Chinese Twitter-like website Weibo, has confessed in court to spreading false rumors about the Chinese government in the first public trial under a Chinese crackdown on online rumors. China has threatened criminal penalties against anyone who spreads rumors on microblogs that are reposted more than 500 times, or seen by more than 5,000 users. Qin invented a story that the government gave 200m yuan (US$32m) in compensation to the family of a foreign passenger killed in a high-speed train crash in 2011 in order to incite hatred to the government which gave much lower compensation to Chinese nationals. The Chinese government did have policies in the past to give more compensations to foreigners than locals in disasters, though those policies have been phased out in recent years. Online rumours are particularly pervasive in China, where traditional media is heavily regulated by the government and public trust in the media is low."
An anonymous reader writes "The Associated Press reports that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has put up a $250,000 reward for 'information leading to an arrest and conviction in a startling attack mounted nearly a year ago on telephone lines and the power grid in Silicon Valley.' Besides cutting power lines, the attackers also cut AT&T fiber-optic phone lines, thereby denying some people access to 911, and fired shots into a PB&E substation, knocking out 17 transformers in Silicon Valley and causing $15 million in damage. As of this post, the perpetrators are still unidentified and continue to elude the FBI. Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday was brought before the Senate Energy Committee to explain why the FERC disseminated via insecure media a sensitive document describing where all the nation's power grids are particularly sensitive to a physical attack. FERC responded with assurances that databases are currently being scrubbed and procedures being implemented to safeguard critical data."
vrml (3027321) writes "They revealed the existence of their project only to aviation safety specialists at the recent FAA Conference on Cabin Safety in Philadelphia (PDF). Now a team of Italian researchers from the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has publicly released the first in a set of aviation safety apps on which they are working. Their mission is to propose novel, first-of-their-kind solutions to a well-known problem in aviation safety: passengers lack preparedness about what to do in aircraft emergencies, and do not pay attention or do not clearly comprehend the pre-flight briefings and safety cards used by airlines to instruct them about safety. So the project is re-inventing safety cards and briefings with new media, turning them into games and apps. The first game they decided to release focuses specifically on the 'Brace for impact' position: players can pose the body of their avatar in the 3D airplane cabin and get a personalized simulation of a crash landing . To win the game, you must save your avatar (and yourself)."
ananyo (2519492) writes "A new UN report (link to data) details comprehensive country-by-country murder rates. Safest is Singapore, with just one killing per 480,000 people in 2012. In the world's most violent country, Honduras, a man has a 1 in 9 chance of being murdered during his lifetime. The Economist includes an intriguing 'print only interactive' (see the PDF) and has some tongue-in-cheek tips on how to avoid being slain: 'First, don't live in the Americas or Africa, where murder rates (one in 6,100 and one in 8,000 respectively) are more than four times as high as the rest of the world. Next, be a woman. Your chance of being murdered will be barely a quarter what it would be were you a man. In fact, steer clear of men altogether: nearly half of all female murder-victims are killed by their partner or another (usually male) family member. But note that the gender imbalance is less pronounced in the rich world, probably because there is less banditry, a mainly male pursuit. In Japan and South Korea slightly over half of all murder victims are female. Then, sit back and grow older. From the age of 30 onwards, murder rates fall steadily in most places.'"
First time accepted submitter AllTheTinfoilHats (3612007) writes "A security flaw in Google Chrome allows any website you visit with the browser to listen in on nearby conversations. It doesn't allow sites to access your microphone's audio, but provides them with a transcript of the browser's speech-to-text transcriptions of anything in range. It was found by a programmer in Israel, who says Google issued a low-priority label to the bug when he reported it, until he wrote about it on his blog and the post started picking up steam on social media. The website has to keep you clicking for eight seconds to keep the microphone on, and Google says it has no timeline for a fix." However, as discoverer Guy Aharonovsky is quoted, "It seems like they started to look for a way to quickly mitigate this flaw."
sandbagger (654585) writes "Stop Stealing Photos is a resource in the pro photographer community for protecting consumers. How? By identifying wannabes who use images in their portfolios that they did not create. In this case, one 'photographer' built a massive social media presence, in many platforms including Linked In where he includes System Architecture in his skills. However, such advocacy web sites are very manual and often run by non-programmers. How can the tech community help consumers in protecting them from phoney on-line presences? Or is this vigilantism?"
RichDiesal writes: "In an upcoming special issue of Social Science Computer Review, researchers set out to understand how people actually use social media while at work and how it affects their job performance. By polling workers across 17 industries, they identified 8 broad ways that people use social media that they believe help their work, and 9 broad ways that people use social media that they believe harm their work. Although the harmful social media behaviors were related to decreased job performance, the beneficial social media behaviors were unrelated to job performance. In short, wasting time on social media hurts you, but trying to use social media to improve your work probably doesn't actually help."
We recently had the chance to talk with internet rock star and former code monkey Jonathan Coulton. We asked him a number of your questions and a few of our own about music, technology, and copyright issues. Read below to see what he had to say.
rjmarvin (3001897) writes "Two Princeton computer science students have created an open source platform for developing voice-controlled applications that are always on. Created by Shubhro Saha and Charlie Marsh, Jasper runs on the Raspberry Pi under Raspbian, using a collection of open source libraries to make up a development platform for building voice-controlled applications. Marsh and Saha demonstrate Jasper's capability to perform Internet searches, update social media, and control music players such as Spotify. You need a few easily obtainable bits of hardware (a USB microphone, wifi dongle or ethernet, and speakers). The whole thing is powered by CMU Sphinx (which /. covered the open sourcing of back in 2000). Jasper provides Python modules (under the MIT license) for recognizing phrases and taking action, or speaking when events occur. There doesn't seem to be anything tying it to the Raspberry Pi either, so you could likely run it on an HTPC for always-on voice control of your media center.
New submitter lashicd sends news that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has announced a successful proof-of-concept demonstration of converting seawater to liquid hydrocarbon fuel. They used seawater to provide fuel for a small replica plan running a two-stroke internal combustion engine. "Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system. ... NRL has made significant advances in the development of a gas-to-liquids (GTL) synthesis process to convert CO2 and H2 from seawater to a fuel-like fraction of C9-C16 molecules. In the first patented step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). These value-added hydrocarbons from this process serve as building blocks for the production of industrial chemicals and designer fuels."