DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 220

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
Businesses

Judge Kills FTC Lawsuit Against D-Link for Flimsy Security (dslreports.com) 94

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against network equipment vendor D-Link saying inadequate security in the company's wireless routers and internet cameras left consumers open to hackers and privacy violations. The FTC, in a complaint filed in the Northern District of California charged that "D-Link failed to take reasonable steps to secure its routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, potentially compromising sensitive consumer information, including live video and audio feeds from D-Link IP cameras." For its part, D-Link Systems said it "is aware of the complaint filed by the FTC." Fast forward nine months, a judge has dismissed the FTC's case, claiming that the FTC failed to provide enough specific examples of harm done to consumers, or specific instances when the routers in question were breached. From a report: "The FTC does not identify a single incident where a consumer's financial, medical or other sensitive personal information has been accessed, exposed or misused in any way, or whose IP camera has been compromised by unauthorized parties, or who has suffered any harm or even simple annoyance and inconvenience from the alleged security flaws in the [D-Link] devices," wrote the Judge. "The absence of any concrete facts makes it just as possible that [D-Link]'s devices are not likely to substantially harm consumers, and the FTC cannot rely on wholly conclusory allegations about potential injury to tilt the balance in its favor."
Youtube

More Are Paying To Stream Music, But YouTube Still Holds the Value Gap (theregister.co.uk) 43

An anonymous reader shares a report: With Google's user-generated content loophole firmly in lawmaker's sights, global music trade body IFPI has published new research looking at demand for music streaming. The research confirms YouTube's pre-eminence as the world's de facto jukebox. 46 percent of on-demand music streaming is from Google's video website. 75 percent of internet users use video streaming to hear music. The paid-for picture is bullish: 50 percent of internet users have paid for licensed music in the last six months, in one form or another, of which 53 per are 13- to 15-year-olds. Audio streaming is split between 39 percent who stream for free and 29 percent who pay. [...] So what's the problem? European policy makers have become convinced by the "value gap" argument: compensation doesn't reflect usage. Google finds itself with a unique advantage here, thanks to YouTube's "user-generated content" exception, as we explained last year.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Why Does Google Want To Purchase HTC? (bloomberg.com) 101

Rumor has it Google is planning to purchase HTC -- or at least a portion of it. The speculation of this has been doing rounds for weeks now, and it reached a new high today after HTC said its stock will stop trading from Thursday, as it prepares to make a "major announcement" tomorrow. Bloomberg reported today: Alphabet's Google is close to acquiring assets from Taiwan's HTC, according to a person familiar with the situation, in a bid to bolster the internet giant's nascent hardware business. HTC, once ranked among the world's top smartphone makers, is holding a town hall meeting Thursday, according to tech website Venture Beat, which cited a copy of an internal invitation. The shares will also be suspended from trading as of Sept. 21 due to a pending announcement, according to the Taiwan stock exchange. Of course Google has made similar moves in the past. It previously owned Motorola for a brief period of time, but that acquisition didn't materialize much. The company has however, since re-hired the Motorola chief it once had, Rick Osterloh, and founded a separate hardware team under his stewardship. Claude Zellweger, the one-time chief designer of HTC Vive, is also now at Google, working on that company's Daydream virtual reality system.

What reasons could Google have to purchase HTC? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Courts

Pepe the Frog's Creator Is Sending Takedown Notices To Far-Right Sites (vice.com) 331

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to "aggressively enforce his intellectual property." The artist's lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear -- stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences. Furie originally created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy's Club comic, but Pepe later became an internet meme and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election the alt-right movement appropriated the frog in various grotesque and hateful memes.
AI

You Might Use AI, But That Doesn't Mean You're an AI Company, Says a Founder of Google Brain (venturebeat.com) 73

As AI space gets crowded, there are a slew of businesses -- new and old -- looking to market themselves as "AI companies." But according to Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain team and a luminary in the space, there's more to being an AI company than just using a neural net. From a report: In his view, while it's possible to create a website for a shopping mall, that doesn't make it an internet company. In the same way, just implementing basic machine learning does not make a standard technology company (or any other business) an AI company. "You're not an AI company because there are a few people using a few neural networks somewhere," Ng said. "It's much deeper than that." First and foremost, AI companies are strategic about their acquisition of data, which is used as the fuel for machine learning systems. Once an AI company has acquired the data, Ng said that they tend to store it in centralized warehouses for processing. Most enterprises have their information spread across multiple different warehouses, and collating that data for machine learning can prove difficult. AI companies also implement modern development practices, like frequent deployments. That means it's possible to change the product and learn from the changes.
Privacy

In a 'Plot Twist', Wikileaks Releases Documents It Claims Detail Russia Mass Surveillance Apparatus (techcrunch.com) 166

WikiLeaks, believed by many to be a Kremlin front, surprised some observers Tuesday morning (Snowden called it a "plot twist") when it released documents linking a Russian tech company with access to thousands of citizens' telephone and internet communications with Moscow. From a report: Writing a summary of the cache of mostly Russian-language documents, Wikileaks claims they show how a long-established Russian company which supplies software to telcos is also installing infrastructure, under state mandate, that enables Russian state agencies to tap into, search and spy on citizens' digital activity -- suggesting a similar state-funded mass surveillance program to the one utilized by the U.S.'s NSA or by GCHQ in the U.K. (both of which were detailed in the 2013 Snowden disclosures). The documents which Wikileaks has published (there are just 34 "base documents" in this leak) relate to a St. Petersburg-based company, called Peter-Service, which it claims is a contractor for Russian state surveillance. The company was set up in 1992 to provide billing solutions before going on to become a major supplier of software to the mobile telecoms industry.
The Internet

Internet Is Having a Midlife Crisis (bbc.com) 170

An anonymous reader shares a report: The rise of cyber-bullying and monopolistic business practices has damaged trust in the internet, pioneering entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox has told the BBC. The Lastminute.com founder also called for a "shared set of principles" to make the web happier and safer. She said the internet had done much good over the last 30 years. But she said too many people had missed out on the benefits and it was time to "take a step back". "The web has become embedded in our lives over the last three decades but I think it's reached an inflexion point, or a sort of midlife crisis," she told Radio 4's Today programme. Baroness Lane-Fox co-founded travel booking site Lastminute.com in 1998 before going on to sell the firm for 577m pound seven years later. She described the early days of the internet as being "full of energy and excitement," and akin to the "wild West". "There was this feeling that suddenly, with this access to this new technology, you could start a business from anywhere," she said. However, she said that while technology had become a hugely important sector of the UK economy, it had not fulfilled its early potential.
Chrome

Google Chrome Most Resilient Against Attacks, Researchers Find (helpnetsecurity.com) 98

Between Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer, Chrome has been found to be the most resilient against attacks, an analysis by security researchers has found. Firefox, Safari, and Opera were not included in the test. From a report: "Modern web browsers such as Chrome or Edge improved security in recent years. Exploitation of vulnerabilities is certainly more complex today and requires a higher skill than in the past. However, the attack surface of modern web browsers is increasing due to new technologies and the increasing complexity of web browsers themselves," noted Markus Vervier, Managing Director of German IT security outfit X41 D-Sec (and one of the researchers involved in the analysis). The researchers' aim was to determine which browser provides the highest level of security in common enterprise usage scenarios.
United States

Americans Plan Massive 'Net Neutrality' Protest Next Week (theguardian.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: A coalition of activists, consumer groups and writers are calling on supporters to attend the next meeting of the Federal Communications Commission on September 26 in Washington DC. The next day, the protest will move to Capitol Hill, where people will meet legislators to express their concerns about an FCC proposal to rewrite the rules governing the internet... The activist groups are encouraging internet users to meet their lawmakers and tell them how a free and open internet is vital to their lives and their livelihoods...

"The FCC seems dead set on killing net neutrality, but they have to answer to Congress, and Congress has to answer to us, their constituents," said Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, one of the protest's organisers. "With this day of advocacy, we're harnessing the power of the web to make it possible for ordinary internet users to meet directly with their senators and representatives to tell their stories, and make sure that lawmakers hear from the public, not just lobbyists for AT&T and Verizon," she said.

Monday Mozilla and the Internet Archive are also inviting the public to a free panel discussion featuring former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on ways the American public can act to preserve net neutrality.
Security

Security.txt Standard Proposed, Similar To Robots.txt (bleepingcomputer.com) 85

An anonymous reader writes: Ed Foudil, a web developer and security researcher, has submitted a draft to the IETF — Internet Engineering Task Force — seeking the standardization of security.txt, a file that webmasters can host on their domain root and describe the site's security policies. The file is akin to robots.txt, a standard used by websites to communicate and define policies for web and search engine crawlers...

For example, if a security researcher finds a security vulnerability on a website, he can access the site's security.txt file for information on how to contact the company and securely report the issue. According to the current security.txt IETF draft, website owners would be able to create security.txt files that look like this:

#This is a comment
Contact: security@example.com
Contact: +1-201-555-0123
Contact: https://example.com/security
Encryption: https://example.com/pgp-key.tx...
Acknowledgement: https://example.com/acknowledg...
Disclosure: Full

Youtube

PewDiePie Is Inexcusable But DMCA Takedowns Are Not the Way To Fight Him (vice.com) 505

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the most popular YouTuber in the world. He's gotten himself into another controversy, this time for shouting the n-word while livestreaming a video game. The 27-year-old Swede has repeatedly been criticized for hate speech, and just last month said he would no longer make Nazi jokes after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. But while playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on Sunday, Kjellberg, who has over 57 million subscribers on YouTube, called another player the n-word before erupting into laughter. "What a fucking n****r," he said. "Jeez, oh my god. What the fuck? Sorry, but what the fuck? What a fucking asshole. I don't mean that in a bad way." Kjellberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and has yet to publicly acknowledge the incident.

In response to Kjellberg's use of a racial slur, a number of video game players and developers have condemned the creator. Sean Vanaman, the co-founder of video game company Campo Santo, decided to use copyright law to push back against Kjellberg. On Twitter, he said he was filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request against the famous YouTuber regarding a video in which Kjellberg plays Campo Santo's game Firewatch. There are compelling reasons to [remove hate speech from major internet platforms] by any means necessary, but DMCA overreach is among the least compelling options, considering that it unilaterally puts power into the hands of what are essentially uninvolved parties and allows for little arbitration or defense on the part of those who have their content removed.

Security

ISPs Claim a Privacy Law Would Weaken Online Security, Increase Pop-Ups (arstechnica.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The country's biggest Internet service providers and advertising industry lobby groups are fighting to stop a proposed California law that would protect the privacy of broadband customers. AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Frontier, Sprint, Verizon, and some broadband lobby groups urged California state senators to vote against the proposed law in a letter Tuesday. The bill would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing and application usage histories. California lawmakers could vote on the bill Friday of this week, essentially replicating federal rules that were blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump before they could be implemented. The text and status of the California bill, AB 375, are available here.

The letter claims that the bill would "lead to recurring pop-ops to consumers that would be desensitizing and give opportunities to hackers" and "prevent Internet providers from using information they have long relied upon to prevent cybersecurity attacks and improve their service." The Electronic Frontier Foundation picked apart these claims in a post yesterday. The proposed law won't prevent ISPs from taking security measures because the bill "explicitly says that Internet providers can use customer's personal information (including things like IP addresses and traffic records) 'to protect the rights or property of the BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] provider, or to protect users of the BIAS and other BIAS providers from fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful use of the service,'" EFF Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula wrote.

Safari

Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser (adweek.com) 442

The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will "sabotage" the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari. Marty Swant, reporting for AdWeek: Six trade groups -- the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A's and two others -- say they're "deeply concerned" with Apple's plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called "Intelligent Tracking Prevention," limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting. In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as "opaque and arbitrary," warning that the changes could affect the "infrastructure of the modern internet," which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more "generic and less timely and useful."
Businesses

Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete (fastcompany.com) 340

Elizabeth Segran, writing for FastCompany: While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store -- or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles -- still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you're bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer. Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you've picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the "store." Bodega's logo is a cat, a nod to the popular bodega cat meme on social media -- although if the duo gets their way, real felines won't have brick-and-mortar shops to saunter around and take naps in much longer. "The vision here is much bigger than the box itself," McDonald says. "Eventually, centralized shopping locations won't be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you."
Security

Backdoor Found In WordPress Plugin With More Than 200,000 Installations (bleepingcomputer.com) 84

According to Bleeping Computer, a WordPress plug that goes by the name Display Widgets has been used to install a backdoor on WordPress sites across the internet for the past two and a half months. While the WordPress.org team removed the plugin from the official WordPress Plugins repository, the plugin managed to be installed on more than 200,000 sites at the time of its removal. The good news is that the backdoor code was only found between Display Widgets version 2.6.1 (released June 30) and version 2.6.3 (released September 2), so it's unlikely everyone who installed the plugin is affected. WordPress.org staff members reportedly removed the plugin three times before for similar violations. Bleeping Computer has compiled a history of events in its report, put together with data aggregated from three different investigations by David Law, White Fir Design, and Wordfence. The report adds: The original Display Widgets is a plugin that allowed WordPress site owners to control which, how, and when WordPress widgets appear on their sites. Stephanie Wells of Strategy11 developed the plugin, but after switching her focus to a premium version of the plugin, she decided to sell the open source version to a new developer who would have had the time to cater to its userbase. A month after buying the plugin in May, its new owner released a first new version -- v2.6.0 -- on June 21.
Iphone

iPhone 8 and iPhone X Will Support Fast Charging, But Only If You Buy a New USB-C Charger (9to5mac.com) 144

One little detail Apple didn't mention at its event in Cupertino, California yesterday was the fact that the new iPhones will support fast charging. According to the official tech specs page, the new iPhones can recharge up to 50 percent of their battery life in a 30-minute charge. The catch? You have to use a USB-C charger and Lightning cable (sold separately). 9to5Mac reports: iPhone 8 battery life is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. On a full charge, expect up to 12 hours of internet usage on iPhone 8 and iPhone X, with up to 13 hours on iPhone 8 Plus. With a 50% quick charge in 30 minutes, you are effectively gaining hours of additional battery life during the day, even if you only plug in for a short period. However, to take advantage of fast-charging, you cannot use the Lightning to USB-A cable that is bundled in the box. Fast charging requires a USB-C to Lightning cable and the USB-C wall charger. More specifically, one of three USB-C wall chargers. Apple sells 29W, 61W and 87W variants of its USB-C power adapters. Prices range from $49 to $79. Apple doesn't break out specific numbers on how each model affects charging times, it's not clear if the cheapest 29W model can achieve the advertised 50% recharge in 30 minutes.
Communications

Study Finds That Banning Trolls Works, To Some Degree (vice.com) 340

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On October 5, 2015, facing mounting criticism about the hate groups proliferating on Reddit, the site banned a slew of offensive subreddits, including r/Coontown and r/fatpeoplehate, which targeted Black people and those with weight issues. But did banning these online groups from Reddit diminish hateful behavior overall, or did the hate just spread to other places? A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and University of Michigan examines just that, and uses data collected from 100 million Reddit posts that were created before and after the aforementioned subreddits were dissolved. Published in the journal ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, the researchers conclude that the 2015 ban worked. More accounts than expected discontinued their use on the site, and accounts that stayed after the ban drastically reduced their hate speech. However, studies like this raise questions about the systemic issues facing the internet at large, and how our culture should deal with online hate speech. First, the researchers automatically extracted words from the banned subreddits to create a dataset that included hate speech and community-specific lingo. The researchers looked at the accounts of users who were active on those subreddits and compared their posting activity from before and after those offensive subreddits were banned. The team was able to monitor upticks or drops in the hate speech across Reddit and if that speech had "migrated" to other subreddits as a result.
EU

EU Set To Demand Internet Firms Act Faster To Remove Illegal Content (reuters.com) 60

Companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter could face European Union laws forcing them to be more proactive in removing illegal content if they do not do more to police what is available on the Internet. From a report: The European Union executive outlines in draft guidelines reviewed by Reuters how Internet firms should step up efforts with measures such as establishing trusted flaggers and taking voluntary measures to detect and remove illegal content. Proliferating illegal content, whether because it infringes copyright or incites terrorism, has sparked heated debate in Europe between those who want online platforms to do more to tackle it and those who fear it could impinge on free speech. The companies have significantly stepped up efforts to tackle the problem of late, agreeing to an EU code of conduct to remove hate speech within 24 hours and forming a global working group to combine their efforts remove terrorist content from their platforms.
Facebook

The Fake News Machine: Inside a Town Gearing Up for 2020 (cnn.com) 225

CNN has a story on Veles, riverside town in Macedonia, which back in the day was known to make porcelain for the whole of Yugoslavia. But now, as an investigation by the news outlet has found, it makes fake news. Veles has become home to dozens of website operators who churn out bogus stories designed to attract the attention of Americans. Each click adds cash to their bank accounts. From the report: The scale is industrial: Over 100 websites were tracked here during the final weeks of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, producing fake news that mostly favored Republican candidate for President Donald Trump. One of the shadowy industry's pioneers is a soft-spoken law school dropout. Worried that his online accounts could be shut down, the 24-year-old asked to be known only as Mikhail. He takes on a different persona at night, prowling the internet as "Jesica," an American who frequently posts pro-Trump memes on Facebook. The website and Facebook page that "Jesica" runs caters to conservative readers in the U.S. The stories are political -- and often wrong on the facts. But that doesn't concern Mikhail. "I don't care, because the people are reading," he said. "At 22, I was earning more than someone [in Macedonia] will ever learn in his entire life." He claims to have earned up to $2,500 a day from advertising on his website, while the average monthly income in Macedonia is just $426. The profits come primarily from ad services such as Google's AdSense, which place targeted advertisements around the web. Each click sends a little bit of cash back to the content creator. Mikhail says he has used his profits to buy a house and put his younger sister through school. [...] That site was blocked a few months ago after Facebook and Google started cracking down on fake news sites. Mikhail is now retooling his operation, with his sights set firmly on the 2020 presidential election.

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