Crime

Facebook Is a 'Living, Breathing Crime Scene,' Says Former Tech Insider (nbcnews.com) 120

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: With more than 2 billion users, Facebook's reach now rivals that of Christianity and exceeds that of Islam. However, the network's laser focus on profits and user growth has come at the expense of its users, according to one former Facebook manager who is now speaking out against the social platform. "One of the things that I saw consistently as part of my job was the company just continuously prioritized user growth and making money over protecting users," the ex-manager, Sandy Parakilas, who worked at Facebook for 16 months, starting in 2011, told NBC News. During his tenure at Facebook, Parakilas led third-party advertising, privacy and policy compliance on Facebook's app platform. "Facebook is a living, breathing crime scene for what happened in the 2016 election -- and only they have full access to what happened," said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His work centers on how technology can ethically steer the thoughts and actions of the masses on social media and he's been called "the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience" by The Atlantic magazine.

In response to the comments, Facebook issued a statement saying it is a "vastly different company" from when it was founded. "We are taking many steps to protect and improve people's experience on the platform," the statement said. "In the past year, we've worked to destroy the business model for false news and reduce its spread, stop bad actors from meddling in elections, and bring a new level of transparency to advertising. Last week, we started prioritizing meaningful posts from friends and family in News Feed to help bring people closer together. We have more work to do and we're heads down on getting it done."

Google

Why Uber Can Find You but 911 Can't (wsj.com) 199

Accurate location data is on smartphones, so why don't more wireless carriers use it to locate emergency callers? From a report, shared by a reader: Software on Apple's iPhones and Google's Android smartphones help mobile apps like Uber and Facebook to pinpoint a user's location, making it possible to order a car, check in at a local restaurant or receive targeted advertising. But 911, with a far more pressing purpose, is stuck in the past. U.S. regulators estimate as many as 10,000 lives could be saved each year if the 911 emergency dispatching system were able to get to callers one minute faster. Better technology would be especially helpful, regulators say, when a caller can't speak or identify his or her location. After years of pressure, wireless carriers and Silicon Valley companies are finally starting to work together to solve the problem. But progress has been slow. Roughly 80% of the 240 million calls to 911 each year are made using cellphones, according to a trade group that represents first responders. For landlines, the system shows a telephone's exact address. But it can register only an estimated location, sometimes hundreds of yards wide, from a cellphone call. That frustration is now a frequent source of tension during 911 calls, said Colleen Eyman, who oversees 911 services in Arvada, Colo., just outside Denver.
Businesses

Pandora CEO Roger Lynch Wants To Create the Podcast Genome Project (variety.com) 19

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Pandora's new CEO Roger Lynch has big plans for podcasts: Lynch told Variety on the sidelines of CES in Las Vegas Thursday that he wants to create "the equivalent of the podcast genome project" as the company plans to add many more podcasts to its catalog. Lynch, who joined Pandora as president and CEO in September, said that the company is working on a deep integration of podcasts that will allow users of the service to easily browse and discover new shows. Describing these efforts as a kind of podcast genome project is a nod to Pandora's Music Genome Project -- a massive database of dozens of musical attributes for every single song in the company's music library that is being used to compile stations and aid discovery. Pandora is also looking to offer podcasters monetization options that will be superior to the current state of podcast advertising. Currently, many podcasters still rely on ads that they read themselves on air, Lynch said. "It is not the most effective advertising model."
Businesses

Yelp Accused Of Hiding Positive Reviews For Non-Advertiser (cbslocal.com) 156

A Dallas business owner is accusing Yelp of hiding good reviews of his coffee shop after he refused to pay them for advertising. From a report on CBS Local: Bob Sinnott owns Toasted Coffee + Kitchen in Lower Greenville. He said after months of non-stop phone calls from Yelp, he claims his favorable rating dropped after he finally told the company he would not pay for advertising. "What I would compare it to, the mafia," said Sinnott. "You know, you do business with me or there's retaliation." Sinnott feels Yelp is hiding many of his 5-star reviews in the "not recommended" section because he chose not to pay for Yelp services. "The sales pitch is, pay us a monthly fee and we'll your help page," said Sinnott. He claims there were constant phone calls and emails from Yelp pitching the company's services. "It became what I would call borderline harassment," said Sinnott. After posting on Facebook about his experience, Sinnott said his rating went from a 4-star to a 3.5-star rating. Google rates Toasted at 4.1 and Facebook has the business at a 4.6 rating.
Google

Google Sold 6.75 Million 'Google Home' Devices In the Last 80 Days (techcrunch.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Google today announced that it sold "tens of millions of Google devices for the home" over the course of the last year and that it sold "more than one Google Home device every second since Google Home Mini started shipping in October," with roughly 6.75 million seconds since October 19 (the day the Home Mini officially went on sale)... The launch of the Google Home Mini, which you could easily buy for $29 (and occasionally for $19 with store credit) gave the company a low-price competitor to Amazon's Echo Dots, and even though it's doubtful that Google made a lot of money of these sales, the move clearly paid off.
The Verge adds: Google is thought to be losing money on every unit of the Home Mini; Reuters reported on one analysis that pegged the device's parts alone at $26, not including the cost of developing the entire thing, supporting it, advertising it, shipping it, and so on. Of course, Google is in this for the long game -- the Assistant is an attempt to make sure Google remains the way people get information, and Google has plenty of options to make money through ads or the data it collects in the future...

Amazon is also believed to be losing money on the Echo Dot, which was similarly cut to $29 during the holiday season. Amazon never gives out specific sales figures, but it did say that "tens of millions" of its own Alexa-enabled devices were sold over the holidays, with the Echo Dot being one of the top sellers... These super cheap prices are getting people to buy smart speakers and commit to an ecosystem. These companies are clearly happy to spend a few dollars gaining customers in the short term so that they have an enormous audience available to them down the road.

Advertising

Your Car May Soon Start Serving You Ads (siliconbeat.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes SiliconBeat: Santa Clara auto-tech firm Telenav has just announced an "in-car advertising platform" for cars that connect to the internet. Telenav wants to sell the system to major auto manufacturers. And although it's probably the last thing many consumers want, vehicle owners will pay more for connected-car services if they decline the ads. "This approach helps car makers offset costs related to connected services, such as wireless data, content, software and cloud services," a spokeswoman for Telenav said Jan. 5. "In return for accepting ads in vehicles, drivers benefit from access to connected services without subscription fees, as well as new driving experiences that come from the highly-targeted and relevant offers delivered based on information coming from the vehicle."

Auto makers including Toyota, Lexus, Ford, GM and Cadillac already use the company's connected-car products, the spokeswoman said. Telenav CEO H.P. Jin in a press release called the ad platform "an exciting new opportunity" for vehicle manufacturers to "monetize connectivity to cover service costs and even drive healthy profits while enriching the consumer experience with safely delivered, engaging and relevant offers"...

To prevent driver distraction, "ads only appear when the vehicle is stopped, such as at car startup, traffic lights and upon arrival," Telenav said... Of course, driver distraction won't be an issue in self-driving cars, and this technology suggests the captive audiences in those vehicles will likely be subjected to an ad barrage in robotic ride-sharing vehicles and automated cars whose owners decline to pay more to avoid in-car advertising.

Google

White Noise Video on YouTube Hit By Five Copyright Claims (bbc.com) 219

Chris Baraniuk, reporting for BBC: A musician who made a 10-hour long video of continuous white noise -- indistinct electronic hissing -- has said five copyright infringement claims have been made against him. Sebastian Tomczak, who is based in Australia, said he made the video in 2015 and uploaded it to YouTube. The claimants accusing him of infringement include publishers of white noise intended for sleep therapy. "I will be disputing these claims," he told the BBC. In this case, those accusing Mr Tomczak are not demanding the video's removal, but instead the reward of any revenue made from advertising associated with it. Without the claims, Mr Tomczak would receive such revenue himself. "I am intrigued and perplexed that YouTube's automated content ID system will pattern-match white noise with multiple claims," he said.
Advertising

Yes, Your Amazon Echo Is an Ad Machine (gizmodo.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: CNBC reports that Amazon is in discussions with huge companies that want to promote their goods on Echo devices. Proctor & Gamble as well as Clorox are reportedly in talks for major advertising deals that would allow Alexa to suggest products for you to buy. CNBC uses the example of asking Alexa how to remove a stain, with Alexa in turn recommending a Clorox product. So far it's unclear how Amazon would identify promoted responses from Alexa, if at all. Here's the really wacky thing: Amazon has already been doing this sort of thing to some degree. Currently, paid promotions are built into Alexa responses, but maybe you just haven't noticed it. CNBC uses this example: "There are already some sponsorships on Alexa that aren't tied to a user's history. If a shopper asks Alexa to buy toothpaste, one response is, 'Okay, I can look for a brand, like Colgate. What would you like?'" So it seems like Amazon wants to get you coming and going. Not only does the company want to let you buy stuff with your voice. Jeff Bezos and friends also want to make money by suggesting what to buy and even by pushing those products higher up in the search results so that you're more likely to do it.
Businesses

Dating Website eHarmony's Ad Banned For Claiming Service Is 'Scientifically Proven' (bbc.com) 160

A dating website's claim that it used a "scientifically proven matching system" to pair up those looking for love, has been banned. From a report: An advert for eHarmony on the London Underground in July read: "It's time science had a go at love." The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) called the claim "misleading." The online matchmaker said while it "respectfully disagrees" with the ruling, it will make its advertising "as clear as possible." The website was unable to offer the ASA any evidence that customers had a greater chance of finding love, despite claiming that its "scientifically proven matching system decodes the mystery of compatibility and chemistry." "Imagine being able to stack the odds of finding lasting love entirely in your favour," the advert read.
Google

How Climate Change Deniers Rise To the Top in Google Searches (nytimes.com) 359

If you searched for the words "climate change" into Google, until earlier this week, you could have gotten an unexpected result: ads that call global warming a hoax. "Scientists blast climate alarm," said one that appeared at the top of the search results page during a recent search, pointing to a website, DefyCCC, that asserted: "Nothing has been studied better and found more harmless than anthropogenic CO2 release." Another ad proclaimed: "The Global Warming Hoax -- Why the Science Isn't Settled," linking to a video containing unsupported assertions, including that there is no correlation between rising levels of greenhouse gases and higher global temperatures. These references were first reported by The New York Times (the link may be paywalled). From a report: America's technology giants have come under fire for their role in the spread of fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign, prompting promises from Google and others to crack down on sites that spread disinformation. Less scrutinized has been the way tech companies continue to provide a mass platform for the most extreme sites among those that use false or misleading science to reject the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Google's search page has become an especially contentious battleground between those who seek to educate the public on the established climate science and those who reject it. Not everyone who uses Google will see climate denial ads in their search results. Google's algorithms use search history and other data to tailor ads to the individual, something that is helping to create a highly partisan internet. A recent search for "climate change" or "global warming" from a Google account linked to a New York Times climate reporter did not return any denial ads. The top results were ads from environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. But when the same reporter searched for those terms using private browsing mode, which helps mask identity information from Google's algorithms, the ad for DefyCCC popped up.
[...] The climate denialist ads are an example of how contrarian groups can use the internet's largest automated advertising systems to their advantage, gaming the system to find a mass platform for false or misleading claims.

Privacy

That Game on Your Phone May Be Tracking What You're Watching on TV (nytimes.com) 98

Rick Zeman writes: The New York Times (may be paywalled) has an article describing how some apps track TV and movie viewing even when the loaded app isn't currently active. These seemingly innocuous games, geared towards both adults and children work by "using a smartphone's microphone. For instance, Alphonso's software can detail what people watch by identifying audio signals in TV ads and shows, sometimes even matching that information with the places people visit and the movies they see. The information can then be used to target ads more precisely...." While these apps, mostly available on Google play, with some available on the Apple Store, do offer an opt opt, it's not clear when consumers see "permission for microphone access for ads," it may not be clear to a user that, "Oh, this means it's going to be listening to what I do all the time to see if I'm watching 'Monday Night Football."'
One advertising executive summarizes thusly: "It's not what's legal. It is what's not creepy."

Security

Web Trackers Exploit Flaw In Browser Login Managers To Steal Usernames (bleepingcomputer.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: Princeton privacy experts are warning that advertising and analytics firms can secretly extract site usernames from browsers using hidden login fields and tie non-authenticated users visiting a site with their profiles or emails on that domain. This type of abusive behavior is possible because of a design flaw in the login managers included with all browsers. Experts say that web trackers can embed hidden login forms on sites where the tracking scripts are loaded. Because of the way the login managers work, the browser will fill these fields with the user's login information, such as username and passwords.

The trick is an old one, known for more than a decade but until now it's only been used by hackers trying to collect login information during XSS (cross-site scripting) attacks. Princeton researchers say they recently found two web tracking services that utilize hidden login forms to collect login information. The two services are Adthink (audienceinsights.net) and OnAudience (behavioralengine.com), and Princeton researchers said they identified scripts from these two that collected login info on 1,110 sites found on the Alexa Top 1 Million sites list. A demo page has been created to show how the tracking works.

Open Source

Fleeing Google's Apps and iOS, Mandrake Linux Creator Launches 'eelo' Project (hackernoon.com) 122

Open-source veteran Gaël Duval created Mandrake Linux in 1998. But in a new essay, he writes that "I realized that I had become lazy. Not only wasn't I using Linux anymore as my main operating system, but I was using a proprietary OS on my smartphone. And I was using Google more and more."

Long-time Slashdot reader nuand999 writes: He's creating a non-profit project called eelo.io that's going to release a "privacy-friendly" smartphone OS and associated web-services... eelo is going to be forked fromLineageOS, and will ship with the existing open source bricks put together into a consistent and privacy-enhanced, yet desirable, smartphone OS + web-services. A crowdfunding campaign has just started on Kickstarter to fuel early developments.
"iOS is proprietary and I prefer Open Source Software," Gaël writes on Hacker Noon, while also adding that "like millions of others, I'VE BECOME A PRODUCT OF GOOGLE... I'm not happy because Google has become too big and is tracking us by catching a lot of information about what we do. They want to know us as much as possible to sell advertising..."

"People are free to do what they want. They can choose to be volunteery slaves. But I do not want this situation for me anymore. I want to reconquer my privacy. My data is MY data. And I want to use Open Source software as much as possible."
Advertising

Kids In 'Netflix Only' Homes Are Being Saved From 230 Hours of Commercials a Year, Says Report (exstreamist.com) 118

With more kids than ever using streaming services like Netflix for their entertainment, Exstreamist wanted to see what this means for the advertising industry. They were able to determine that kids in "Netflix Only" homes are saved from just over 230 hours of commercials a year when compared to traditional television viewership homes. From the report: We pulled numbers from the National Institute of Health, and found that children are watching 2.68 hours of television a day (in some cases, up to nine hours). In homes with more technology devices like tablets and kid-accessible computers, screen time jumps by approximately one hour per day. Currently, the average hour of television contains 14.25 minutes of commercials, or about 24% of airtime. Networks are even speeding up shows to cram more commercials into each episode. With that in mind, if a kid were watching traditional television, they would be seeing 230 hours of commercials a year, or 9.6 days. Netflix, and other services with kid-specific offerings like Amazon Video and Hulu, make it much easier for parents to control their kids' entertainment options. They offer an easy way to keep a child entertained with no commercial interruption.
Television

Cable TV's Password-Sharing Crackdown Is Coming (bloomberg.com) 143

Charter Communications' CEO, Tom Rutledge, is leading an industrywide effort to crack down on password sharing. It's a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers -- and billions of dollars in revenue -- when they can least afford it. Bloomberg reports: Cable and satellite carriers in North America have lost 3 million customers this year alone. But the prevalence of password sharing suggests many of those customers, and possibly many more, are watching popular shows like "The Walking Dead" for free, robbing pay-TV providers and programmers of paying subscribers and advertising dollars. Most pay-TV companies only require users to re-enter their passwords for each device once a year. During contract negotiations this fall, Charter urged Viacom Inc., home of Comedy Central and MTV, to help limit illicit password swapping. The cable company wants programmers to restrict the number of concurrent streams on their apps and force legitimate subscribers to log in more often, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. ESPN, meanwhile, has reduced the number of simultaneous streams that it allows on its app to five from 10 and is considering cutting that to three, Connolly said. ESPN wants to work more closely with distributors to validate subscribers when there are high volumes of streaming on its app outside the cable company's territory.
Businesses

'Productivity Is Dangerous' (theoutline.com) 233

Vincent Bevins, writing for The Outline: So every morning, I get messages asking me to click through to articles like "How I Optimized My Morning Routine To Get More Done Than ever -- before 8 a.m.!" The people posting links like this have a sickness, and we need to stop it before it gets out of hand. Of course, if you actually click through to this trash, it's a bit shocking to see what they actually do. Some guy is proud that he set aside his social life so that he could unleash four extremely psychologically damaging apps on the world by the age of 30. Or it's like, "Congratulate Lisa on her new job as advertising director for Nestle in Africa." Here's a productivity idea: Just, fucking, don't make shitty apps, or do advertising for Nestle, or really for anything. I often see shit like, "Ten Habits I Have QUIT to Get More Done," and I think, "Maybe quit writing posts like this." If you're waking up at 4 a.m. to write 1,000 words about how you write 1,000 words every day, what are you actually getting done? Just stay in bed. Whenever I am back in the Protestant centers of modern capitalism (New York or London, basically), it's especially jarring to remember what it feels like to treat being busy as if it were a virtue.
Privacy

WhatsApp Ordered To Stop Sharing User Data With Facebook (theverge.com) 119

France's privacy watchdog CNIL has ordered WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with its parent company Facebook. According to a public notice posted on the French website, WhatsApp has a month to comply with the order. The Verge reports: The query began after WhatsApp added to its terms of service last year that it shares data with Facebook to develop targeted advertising, security measures, and to gather business intelligence. Upon investigating these claims, the CNIL ruled that while WhatsApp's intention of improving security measures was valid, the app's business intelligence reason wasn't as acceptable. After all, WhatsApp never told its users it was collecting data for business intelligence and there's no way to opt out without uninstalling the app. That violates "the fundamental freedoms of users," said the CNIL.
Opera

Opera Software Changes Name To Otello Corporation (reuters.com) 55

Opera Software has changed its name to Otello Corporation, it said in a statement on Monday. From a report: Otello owns companies that develop software for advertising, telecoms, games and other online business. The name changes does not affect Opera Software AS or the Opera and Opera Mini internet browsers, all of which Otello sold in 2016, Opera Software AS said in a separate statement.
Advertising

Facebook Will Introduce Ads As Videos Start Playing (recode.net) 72

Facebook is going to start running pre-roll ads on its "Watch" videos next year. While you won't see your News Feed full of video ads, you will start to see pre-rolls, which will run for up to six seconds, on videos in Facebook's "Watch" hub. Recode reports: Facebook launched its Watch hub earlier this year, using "mid-roll" ads (another ad format Facebook tried to avoid for a long time). The fact that they have added pre-rolls -- the format used around the web and the one advertisers are most comfortable with -- should be read as an admission that the mid-roll ads aren't generating significant revenue for Facebook or the publishers putting video into Watch. Speaking of those mid-roll ads: Facebook now says they won't appear until later in videos and they'll only run on longer videos. It says the ads (it calls them "ad breaks") can't run until a minute into a video, and they can only run if the video is at least three minutes long. At first, the ads could run after 20 seconds and on videos as short as 90 seconds.
Books

San Diego Comic-Con Wins Trademark Suit Against 'Salt Lake Comic Con' (deseretnews.com) 117

The Deseret News reports: A jury has found that Salt Lake Comic Con founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, along with their company, violated a trademark when they named their fan convention a "comic con." However, the jury decided that the trademark was not willfully violated, and only awarded $20,000 of the $12 million that San Diego Comic-Con had asked for in damages. The decision came at the end of an eight-day jury trial and three years of legal maneuvering... And with an estimated 140 other fan conventions across the country calling themselves comic cons, the impact of the decision could be felt nationwide...

The Salt Lake group also has an ongoing action with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to invalidate San Diego's "comic-con" trademark... San Diego Comic-Con, which has been holding events since 1970, has a trademark on "comic-con" with a hyphen, but was unsuccessful in its 1995 bid to trademark "comic con," with a space. The unhyphenated name "Comic Con International," as well as the event's iconic "eye logo," are also protected by trademark. The event maintains that its trademarks cover the term "comic con" in all its forms...

San Diego Comic-Con wanted more than $12 million in damages from Salt Lake, including over $9 million for a three-month "corrective advertising campaign" to dispel confusion... In his closing arguments, Michael Katz, an attorney for Salt Lake Comic Con, questioned the amount San Diego was seeking, noting that San Diego authorities said during trial the organization generally spends between $20,000 and $30,000 for a month of advertising.

Slashdot reader AlanBDee writes: When I attended the Salt Lake City Comic Con I did assume it was the same organization that put on San Diego Comic-Con... But now I have to wonder how that will affect other Comic Cons around the nation? What should these comic based fan conventions be called if not Comic Con?

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