China

China Is On Track To Fully Phase Out Cash (vice.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Motherboard: Experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, becomes the first to go totally cashless. In a poky sex toy shop in Sanlitun shopping district in central Beijing, a placard with a QR code is strategically placed next to a pink, vein-knobbled dildo called the Super Emperor, and a clitoral pump. Just scan your phone, and walk out with your purchase. The cigarette vendor across the street accepts smartphone payments too. A fast-moving queue of customers purchase smokes by scanning their phones over a tatty cardboard QR code. All the bars in Sanlitun, equal parts seedy and swish, still take cash, but have likewise implemented cashless pay, largely through the ubiquitous WeChat and Alipay app, as primary payment platforms. Beijing taxi drivers accept smartphone payments too. No one in the area uses physical money, for sex toys or otherwise. Largely due to China's vibrant fintech landscape, the recent rise of phone payments in the country has shunted cash onto the endangered list, perhaps somewhere alongside the pangolin. Many experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, also becomes the first to phase it out to become fully cashless. But when will this moment come?
The Internet

Cable Lobby Survey Backfires; Most Americans Support Net Neutrality (consumerist.com) 119

New submitter Rick Schumann writes from a report via Consumerist: The NCTA hired polling firm Morning Consult to survey people about their attitudes toward net neutrality. In the results and a blog post about the survey, the organization crows that clearly, everyone thinks regulation is bad. Here's the "TL;DR" version: The NCTA claims Americans want "light touch" regulation of the "internet," but did not ask about regulation of internet service providers. The survey claims most voters believe regulation will harm innovation and investment, but their own numbers show that just as many people believe it won't. Most people don't believe the internet should be regulated like a "public utility," which is good because that's not what net neutrality does. When people were asked their feelings about what neutrality actually does, they overwhelmingly support it.
The Almighty Buck

Gorilla Glass Maker Corning Gets $200 Million From Apple's US Manufacturing Investment Fund (techcrunch.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Apple made news and scored some positive PR earlier this month when the company announced a $1 billion fund aimed at investing in U.S.-based manufacturing. Now it's ready to announce the first big investment from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. New York-based Corning Incorporated will be receiving $200 million from the tech giant's coffers, money that will go toward its Harrodsburg, Kentucky R&D facility. Corning is a logical first choice for Apple. The two companies have worked closely for roughly a decade, when Apple first pushed Corning to create a chemically strengthened glass for the iPhone. The resulting product, Gorilla Glass, has since become the standard for nearly every smartphone maker out there. As Apple helpfully adds in a news release touting the funding, the relationship thus far "has created and sustained nearly 1,000 U.S. jobs across Corning's R&D, manufacturing and commercial functions, including over 400 in Harrodsburg." And indeed, aside from a brief dalliance with synthetic sapphire crystal a couple of years back, it's been a pretty fruitful partnership.
Businesses

Blocked From US Tech Investing, China Goes To Israel Instead (cnet.com) 73

Struggling to seal deals in the United States as regulatory scrutiny tightens, Chinese companies looking to invest in promising technology are finding a warmer welcome for their cash in Israel. From a report: Unfazed by this change, which was brought on in part by a new administration focused on US protectionism, Chinese investors are putting their money in Israeli companies instead. Last year, Chinese investment in Israel surged tenfold to $16.5 billion, a record, with money going to Israeli internet, cybersecurity and medical device companies. In contrast, Chinese investors scrapped a record $26.3 billion in previously announced US deals.
Businesses

Google Releases Study Defending YouTube's Value To Music Biz; Trade Bodies Hit Back (billboard.com) 80

The ongoing tussle between YouTube and the music industry took a new turn this week when Google assured everyone that its video platform doesn't have any negative impact on the other streaming music services -- despite all the free music it offers. From a report: A Google-commissioned report into how YouTube impacts on the wider music economy has -- somewhat unsurprisingly -- found that the hugely popular, yet much-maligned platform significantly drives sales and stops users from visiting pirate music services. According to a European study carried out by RBB Economics, if music content was removed from YouTube around 85 percent of the time that users spend on the platform would switch to lower value channels, such as TV, radio or internet radio. RBB claimed there would also be a significant increase in time spent listening to pirated content (up 29 percent), while only 15 percent of heavy users, defined as someone who watches more than 20 hours of music videos per month, would switch to higher value offerings like subscription streaming services. In the U.K., that number increases to 19 percent; in France it's 12 percent. [...] In response, music trade bodies poured scorn on the paper's findings. "Google's latest publicity push once again seeks to distract from the fact that YouTube, essentially the world's largest on-demand music service, is failing to license music on a fair basis and compensate artists and producers properly by claiming it is not liable for the music it is making available," reads a statement from IFPI. "Services like YouTube, that are not licensing music on fair terms, hinder the development of a sustainably healthy digital music market," claimed the international trade body, repeating its regular call for tighter regulation around safe harbour licensing.
Communications

Cyberattack Hits England's National Health Service With Ransom Demands (theguardian.com) 202

Hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale cyber-attack, the NHS has confirmed, which has locked staff out of their computers and forced many trusts to divert emergency patients. The IT systems of NHS sites across the country appear to have been simultaneously hit, with a pop-up message demanding a ransom in exchange for access to the PCs. NHS Digital said it was aware of the problem and would release more details soon. Details of patient records and appointment schedules, as well as internal phone lines and emails, have all been rendered inaccessible. From a report: "The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor. At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed. We will continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this. NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations. "This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors. "Our focus is on supporting organisations to manage the incident swiftly and decisively, but we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available." NPR adds: The problem erupted around 12:30 p.m. local time, the IT worker says, with a number of email servers crashing. Other services soon went down -- and then, the unidentified NHS worker says, "A bitcoin virus pop-up message had been introduced on to the network asking users to pay $300 to be able to access their PCs. You cannot get past this screen." The attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organizations from across a range of sectors, it appears. The report adds: Images that were posted online of the NHS pop-up look nearly identical to pop-up ransomware windows that hit Spain's Telefonica, a powerful attack that forced the large telecom to order employees to disconnect their computers from its network -- resorting to an intercom system to relay messages. Telefonica, Spain's largest ISP, has told its employees to shut down their computers.

Update
: BBC is reporting that similar attacks are being reported in the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan today.
Spam

Nuisance Call Firm Keurboom Hit With Record Fine (bbc.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: A cold-calling firm has been fined a record $515,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for making almost 100 million nuisance calls. Keurboom Communications called people, sometimes at night, to see if they were eligible for road-accident or PPI compensation, the ICO said. It breached privacy laws by calling people without their consent. The company has since gone into liquidation but the ICO said it was committed to recovering the fine. It said it had received more than 1,000 complaints about automated calls from the Bedfordshire-registered company. The ICO said Keurboom Communications called some people repeatedly and during unsocial hours. It also hid its identity so that people would find it harder to complain. "The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom's failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls," said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO.
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Surprisingly Comfortable With Its New Place In a Mobile, Apple, and Android World (fastcompany.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: The company that once held a mock funeral for the iPhone -- complete with dedicated "iPhone trashcans" -- now has a very different attitude about the company of Jobs. The Microsoft whose old CEO Steve Ballmer in 2007 famously predicted the iPhone had "no chance; no chance at all" of getting market share, now readily accepts and embraces a world where the iPhone and Android dominate personal computing. Microsoft talked a lot here at its Build 2017 developer conference about extending Windows experiences over to iOS and Android devices. And it's not just about fortifying Windows. Microsoft says it not only wants to connect with those foreign operating systems, but by bringing over functionality from Windows 10 (along with content) it hopes to "make those other devices better," as one Microsoft rep said in a press briefing yesterday. The developers here at Build cheered when Microsoft announced XAML Standard 1.0, which provides a single markup language to make user interfaces that work on Windows, iOS, and Android. In one demo, the company demonstrated how an enterprise sales app could be extended to an iOS device so someone could continue capturing a potential client's data on a mobile device. Windows not only sent over the client data that had already been captured, but also the business-app shell that had captured it.
Education

Why Doesn't Harvard Want To Talk About Its Mystery Microsoft Azure Project? (geekwire.com) 51

theodp writes: GeekWire's Tom Krazit reports, "Microsoft Azure appears to have scored a high-profile customer: Harvard University's prestigious CS50 computer science class, not that anybody wants to talk about it." A deleted-today-but-still-cached Microsoft Technical Case Study on the software giant's GitHub account touts the success of a recent DevOps collaboration effort between Microsoft's Azure team and an unnamed "major U.S. research university." "This U.S. university is world-class," explains the case study, "well known for its research and its alumni. For now, they would prefer to remain anonymous, so this document will refer to them as 'the university' (the case study web page, however, is a not-so-anonymous 'CS50.html')." Like many IT projects, there seems to be a disconnect between the software vendor and the client. "The project we defined and delivered was exactly what they were looking for," boasts the case study's three Microsoft authors, who add that "full deployment and migration will wait until summer." Contacted for comment by GeekWire, however, Harvard CS professor extraordinaire David Malan seemed less committed to the relationship. "We're actually still on AWS," Malan wrote, "though most every summer we do tend to re-evaluate our apps' architecture for the coming year, with AWS, Azure, Google, et al. always among the candidates. So no plans yet, but happy to reach out toward summer's end if we've made any decisions!"
Verizon

Verizon Outbids AT&T For Nationwide 5G Wireless Spectrum (theverge.com) 34

Verizon has agreed to pay $3.1 billion for wireless spectrum holder Straight Path Communications, beating out rival AT&T, which had offered to buy Straight Path for $1.6 billion in stock. Verizon's acquisition will give it access to the frequencies necessary to build a 5G network across the U.S. The Verge reports: The news that AT&T was aiming to buy the Glen Allen, VA-based Straight Path was first reported last month, prompting a bidding war between the carriers that the WSJ describes as "unusually intense." Straight Path's purchase gives Verizon access to millimeter wave frequencies that are set to be used by 5G networks across the United States, making it a useful purchase from the start. Experts have also noted that the company's owner may also be afforded even more spectrum in future auctions with the FCC, potentially giving Verizon access to the entire 39GHz band down the line.
Google

German Publishers' Lawsuit Against Google May Backfire (npr.org) 29

jowifi writes: VG Media, a German publishing company, filed a lawsuit against Google claiming Google's use of snippets in their search results infringed the publishers' copyrights. However, the suit may backfire because the Berlin court is now reviewing the law itself to determine if it is even valid. The question arose because Germany did not submit the rule for review by the EU before enacting it, violating an EU Directive. If the law is invalidated, the decision could present problems for a proposed EU-wide directive that is similar to the German rule. Germany's rule had a rough start when it was implemented in 2014. Google refused to pay fees to publishers, instead allowing them to opt in to having snippets shown. One publisher declined to opt in, but changed their mind after traffic from Google dropped 40% and traffic from Google News dropped 80%. Handelsblatt Global explains why Germany decided not to notify the EU about the draft of this law: "While typically a formality, notification reviews of national laws by Brussels can take up to two years or more. In 2013, Germany did not submit the copyright law for notification, citing a Justice Ministry argument that the law's scope was so limited, it didn't fall under the E.U.'s notification requirement."
Patents

Cloudflare Declares War On a Patent Troll With a $50,000 Bounty (fortune.com) 54

Internet security company Cloudflare has declared war on a company called Blackbird that consists of a group of lawyers who file patent lawsuits against tech and retail firms. In a blog post titled "Standing Up to a Dangerous New Breed of Patent Troll," Cloudflare called Blackbird's business model destruction and unethical, and announced a $50,000 bounty to anyone who would help invalidate Blackbird's patents. Fortune reports: "There's no social value here. There's no support for a maligned inventor. There's no competing business or product. There's no validation of an incentive structure that supports innovation. This is a shakedown where a patent troll, Blackbird Tech, creates as much nuisance as it can so its attorney-principals can try to grab some cash. Cloudflare does not intend to play along," said the blog post. While patent trolling has been around for years -- and is a particular bug bear of the tech industry -- Cloudflare says Blackbird's model of trolling involves a new and unethical twist. Specifically, the company says Blackbird's lawyer-executives are violating their professional obligations by buying the claims of potential clients and engaging in questionable fee-splitting arrangements. Here is how Cloudflare, which says it is filing complaints with the state bars of Massachusetts and Illinois, explains it: "Blackbird's 'new model' seems to be only that its operations set out to distort the traditional Attorney-Client relationship. Blackbird's website makes a direct pitch of its legal services to recruit clients with potential claims and then, instead of taking them on as a client, purchases their claims and provides additional consideration that likely gives the client an ongoing interest in the resulting litigation. In doing so, Blackbird is flouting its ethical obligations meant to protect clients and distorting the judicial process by obfuscating and limiting potential counterclaims against the real party in interest."
Education

'The Traditional Lecture Is Dead' (wired.com) 233

Rhett Allain, an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, writing for Wired: What is the traditional lecture? It is a model of learning in which a teacher possesses the knowledge on a given topic and disseminates it to students. This model dates to the beginning of education, when it was the only way of sharing information. In fact, you occasionally still see the person presenting the lecture called a reader, because way back before the internet and even the printing press, a teacher would literally read from a book so students could copy it all down. Now, don't get me wrong. The traditional lecture model worked wonderfully for eons. But it is an outdated idea (free pass for adblockers). Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a college physics course with a professor giving a traditional lecture. Now open your eyes. Did you envision The Best Physics Lecture EVAR? I doubt it. You probably pictured someone droning on and on in front of a chalkboard or PowerPoint presentation. No way that is more engaging or interesting than an episode of The Mechanical Universe , and if you're a teacher who uses traditional lectures, just stop and play the show instead. Everyone will be better off. You may think by now that I think most physics professors are dolts. I promise that's not the case. But traditional lectures simply aren't effective. Research shows students don't learn by hearing or seeing, they learn by doing, a model often called active learning. Physics faculty should start thinking about how they can go beyond just a traditional lecture. There are some easy things they can do (or students can ask them to do) to make learning more engaging. First, make students read the book outside of class, rather than in class. If your lecture merely covers the material in the textbook, why make students buy the textbook? Now, you may put a different spin on the material, but still. You're merely repeating what students can read on their own. Let them do that on their own time, and use the classroom for experiments and demonstrations and so forth.
Businesses

Amazon Is the 2nd Most Popular App Among Teens, Says Study (cnbc.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: When it comes to apps they're using these days, teens and millennials say Snapchat is king -- no surprise there. But second place? It's not Instagram: It's Amazon. This is according to a survey -- The 2017 Love List Brand Affinity Index, run by Conde Nast and Goldman Sachs -- that asked 2,345 U.S. millennial and Gen Z shoppers about their fashion, retail and consumer preferences. The survey skewed towards younger consumers. One question asked which apps they were using currently that they weren't using a few months ago: Snapchat and Amazon came in first and second. (Other popular apps -- Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest -- came in third, fourth and fifth respectively.) "Users are looking for efficiency, speed and convenience, and Amazon hits all those buckets," said Conde Nast chief marketing officer Pam Drucker Mann told CNBC. On a side note, it appears people generally don't have many gripes with Amazon. Early results of our poll from Wednesday suggests Amazon is the last company (of the five tech giants) whose services people are keen on ditching. Also, regardless of how some of us feel about Snapchat, the company seems to be a hit among teenagers.
The Courts

Man To Pay $300,000 In Damages For Hacking Employer (bbc.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: A former private security officer in California must pay nearly $319,000 in damages for attacking his employer's computer systems. Yovan Garcia accessed payroll records at Security Specialists, which provides private security patrols, to inflate the number of hours he had worked. He later hacked the firm's servers to steal data and defaced its website. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald said Garcia had used the stolen data to help set up a rival business. Security Specialists first noticed issues with Mr Garcia's pay records in July 2014, about two years after he joined. In one example, they showed he had worked 12 hours per day over a two-week period and was owed 40 hours of overtime pay, when in fact he only worked eight hours per day.
Facebook

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel Is Not Afraid of Facebook (recode.net) 42

An anonymous reader writes: Snap CEO Evan Spiegel addressed on Wednesday what many have been hoping he would address for months: What he thinks about Facebook and the fact the social giant is copying all of Snapchat's best features. On Snap's Q1 earnings call Wednesday, Spiegel was asked bluntly: "Does Facebook scare you? Why or why not?" Spiegel laughed. Then talked about how important it is to be creative. Then said this: "At the end of the day, just because Yahoo, for example, has a search box, it doesn't mean they're Google." Fun fact: Yahoo is an investor in Snap.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Arrives in the Windows Store, Suse and Fedora Are Coming To the Windows Subsystem For Linux (venturebeat.com) 212

At its Build developer conference today, Microsoft announced that Ubuntu has arrived in the Windows Store. From a report: The company also revealed that it is working with Fedora and Suse to bring their distributions to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in Windows 10. At the conference last year, Microsoft announced plans to bring the Bash shell to Windows. The fruits of that labor was WSL, a compatibility layer for running Linux binary executables (in ELF format) natively on Windows, which arrived with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update released in August 2016. Microsoft also partnered with Canonical to allow Ubuntu tools and utilities to run natively on top of the WSL. By bringing Ubuntu to the Windows Store, the company is now making it even easier for developers to install the tools and run Windows and Linux apps side by side. Working with other Linux firms shows that Microsoft's deal with Canonical was not a one-time affair, but rather part of a long-term investment in the Linux world.
Businesses

Amazon To Build Homeless Shelter In Its New Seattle Headquarters (cnn.com) 238

Amazon is trying to do its part to help the homelessness problem in its hometown of Seattle. The company announced on Wednesday that it would donate more than 47,000 square feet of space within its newest Seattle headquarters building as a permanent location to house homeless people. CNNMoney reports: "Mary's Place does incredible, life-saving work every day for women, children, and families experiencing homelessness in the Seattle community," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. "We are lucky to count them as neighbors and thrilled to offer them a permanent home within our downtown Seattle headquarters." Amazon is partnering with local nonprofit Mary's Place to create 65 rooms, which will house more than 200 homeless people every night. The new Mary's Place shelter will open in early 2020. It will also have a resource center like those the nonprofit offers in North Seattle and White Center, where 40-plus local nonprofits and volunteers work with staff to help families obtain employment and permanent housing.
United Kingdom

Call Center Operator and His Cousin Steal $645,000 From UK Water Supplier (bleepingcomputer.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: "An unnamed UK-based regional water supply company lost over $645,000 in a sophisticated scam that involved social engineering, an inside man, and international bank transfers," reports BleepingComputer. According to a recently disclosed report, one of the water supplier's call center operators was taking screenshots of customer details and sending this data to his cousin in the UK. This person would trick other call center operators to reset the passwords for those accounts, add his bank account info to the account, and request a refund for previous transactions. Their operation was discovered after customers, usually small-to-medium businesses, discovered they couldn't access their accounts anymore, and also reported new bank account details. A search of the CRM logs revealed that only one call center operator had accessed those profiles, albeit he never initiated or approved refunds. When questioned, the arrogant employee signed an affidavit allowing investigators to search his home PC, thinking they would never discover anything, since he already wiped his hard drive. They did because he forgot to delete his shadow volume copies, where investigators discovered copies of emails sent to his cousin in the UK. These emails contained the screenshots of his work PC with SMB client data. In the end, the call center employee ended up helping authorities secure a conviction for his cousin.
Software

Zillow Faces Lawsuit Over 'Zestimate' Tool That Calculates a House's Worth (washingtonpost.com) 231

According to The Washington Post, "a homeowner has filed suit against online reality giant Zillow, claiming the company's controversial 'Zestimate' tool repeatedly undervalued her house, creating a 'tremendous road block' to its sale." From the report: The suit, which may be the first of its kind, was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by a Glenview, Ill., real estate lawyer, Barbara Andersen. The suit alleges that despite Zillow's denial that Zestimates constitute "appraisals," the fact that they offer market-value estimates and "are promoted as a tool for potential buyers to use in assessing [the] market value of a given property," shows that they meet the definition of an appraisal under state law. Not only should Zillow be licensed to perform appraisals before offering such estimates, the suit argues, but it also should obtain "the consent of the homeowner" before posting them online for everyone to see. In an interview, Andersen told me she is considering bringing the issue to the Illinois attorney general because it affects all property owners in the state. She has also been approached about turning the matter into a class action, which could touch millions of owners across the country. In the suit, Andersen said that she has been trying to sell her townhouse, which overlooks a golf course and is in a prime location, for $626,000 -- roughly what she paid for it in 2009. Houses directly across the street but with greater square footage sell for $100,000 more, according to her court filing. But Zillow's automated valuation system has apparently used sales of newly constructed houses from a different and less costly part of town as comparables in valuing her townhouse, she says. The most recent Zestimate is for $562,000. Andersen is seeking an injunction against Zillow and wants the company to either remove her Zestimate or amend it. For the time being, she is not seeking monetary damages, she told me.
Advertising

Facebook Downranks News Feed Links To Crappy Sites Smothered In Ads (techcrunch.com) 95

Facebook's New Feed algorithm is targeting links that send people to crappy websites filled with advertisements. According to their blog post, Facebook defines a "low-quality site" as one "containing little substantive content, and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads." TechCrunch reports: The change could help Facebook fight fake news, as fakers are often financially motivated and blanket their false information articles in ads. High-quality sites may see a slight boost in referral traffic, while crummy sites will see a decline as the update rolls out gradually over the coming months. Facebook tells me that the change will see it refuse an immaterial number of ad impressions that earned it negligible amounts of money, so it shouldn't have a significant impact on Facebook's revenue. Facebook product manager for News Feed Greg Marra tells me Facebook made the decision based on surveys of users about what disturbed their News Feed experience. One pain point they commonly cited was links that push them to "misleading, sensational, spammy, or otherwise low-quality experiences... [including] sexual content, shocking content, and other things that are going to be really disruptive." Today's change is important because if users don't trust the content on the other side of the links and ads they see in News Feed, they'll click them less. That could reduce Facebook's advertising revenue and the power it derives from controlling referral traffic. Getting sent to a low-quality, shocking site from News Feed could also frustrate users and cause them to end their Facebook browsing session, depriving the social network of further ad views, engagement and content sharing.
Google

'Google Is As Close To a Natural Monopoly As the Bell System Was In 1956' (promarket.org) 248

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProMarket: In terms of market share and profit margins, the big digital platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, enjoy an astounding level of dominance. Google, in effect the world's largest media company, has an 88 percent market share in search advertising. Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) controls over 70 percent of social media on mobile devices. Together, the two firms received 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising in the first quarter of 2016. Amazon has an over 70 percent share in the e-book market. Along with Apple and Microsoft, they are now the most valuable companies (in terms of market capitalization) in the world. The rise of digital platforms has had profound political, economic, and social effects, not least of which on the creators of content. While the internet brought immense benefits to consumers of content, the so-called "creative class" -- authors, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, artists -- has been particularly ravaged by the digital economy. This ravaging, and its roots in the monopolization of content delivery and data in the hands of a few digital giants, are at the heart of the new book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by media scholar Jonathan Taplin. In the book, Taplin explores the way in which the internet came to be dominated by a handful of monopoly platforms, and the subsequent capturing of regulators that has since all but ensured their dominance would not be challenged in court. In an interview with ProMarket, Taplin said in response to a question: "I would say Google is as close to a natural monopoly as the Bell System was in 1956. If you came to me and said 'Hey, I want to start a company to compete with Google in search,' I would say you're out of your mind and don't waste your energy or your time or your money, there's just no way. Classic economics would say that if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital to capture some of that, and none of that has happened. That tells you there's something wrong."
Transportation

New York Begins Taking Applications For Self-Driving Car Tests (fastcompany.com) 13

An anonymous reader writes: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state is now taking applications to test self-driving cars on public roadways. The program requires licensees to have a $5 million insurance policy. Cars must also pass federal and New York automotive safety standards and all test reports must be submitted to the state by March of next year.
Businesses

How One Little Cable Company Exposed Telecom's Achilles' Heel (backchannel.com) 197

Reader mirandakatz writes: Forget net neutrality -- the real fight is over controlling price-gouging monopolies. As Susan Crawford writes at Backchannel, a little-known cable company, Cable One, just exposed the telecommunications industry's Achilles' heel: regulation. Cable One has been raising its data transmission prices quickly, and it's making cable giants very, very nervous. If people begin noticing that there's no competition, that Americans are paying too much for too little, and that the entire country is suffering as a result, that's a big problem for Big Cable. As Crawford writes, 'don't fixate on net neutrality... Even though the state of internet access is an issue that touches the bank accounts and opportunities of hundreds of millions of Americans and gazillions of businesses, very few people understand what's actually going on. Now you are among them. Do something about it.'
EU

US To Ban Laptops in All Cabins of Flights From Europe (thedailybeast.com) 435

An anonymous reader shares an article: The Department of Homeland Security will ban laptops in the cabins of all flights from Europe to the United States, European security officials told The Daily Beast. An official announcement is expected Thursday. Initially a ban on laptops and tablets was applied only to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East. The ban was based on U.S. fears that terrorists have found a way to convert laptops into bombs capable of bringing down an airplane. It is unclear if the European ban will also apply to tablets. DHS said in a statement to The Daily Beast: "No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration. DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe."
Communications

A Bot Is Flooding the FCC's Website With Fake Anti-net Neutrality Comments (zdnet.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: A bot is thought to be behind the posting of thousands of messages to the FCC's website, in an apparent attempt to influence the results of a public solicitation for feedback on net neutrality. A sizable portion of those comments are fake, and are repeating the same manufactured response again and again, ZDNet reports. So much so that more than 58,000 identical comments have been posted since the feedback doors were opened, now representing over one-in-ten comments on the FCC's feedback docket. The comment reads as following: "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years."

ZDNet claims that all other comments follow the same pattern: the bot appears to cycle through names in an alphabetical order, leaving the person's name, and postal address and zip code. And some -- if not all -- of these comments are fake, the publication adds, claiming that it reached out to the people and many of them confirmed that they had not left any comments on the website.
Businesses

Apple Becomes First US Company To Top $800 Billion Value (bloomberg.com) 75

According to Bloomberg, "Apple became the first U.S. company with a market value of more than $800 billion as investors bet the next iPhone will spur a resurgence in sales." From the report: The stock rose 1 percent Tuesday to close at $153.99 in New York, giving it a market capitalization of about $803 billion. The shares have gained 33 percent since the start of the year, helped by a buyback program that Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook extended to total $210 billion last week, from $175 billion last year. Apple's rise to the top of the world's largest equity market highlights the emergence of mobile technology and the relative decline of the oil industry in recent years. Exxon Mobil Corp.'s value peaked in the fall of 2007, when oil prices climbed toward $100 a barrel. In November of that year, PetroChina Co. briefly became the first global company with a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Apple's revenue grew in the most recent fiscal quarter even as iPhone unit sales fell.
Businesses

Why Do Gas Station Prices Constantly Change? Blame the Algorithm (wsj.com) 109

Retailers are using artificial-intelligence software to set optimal prices, testing textbook theories of competition, says a WSJ report. An anonymous reader shares the article: One recent afternoon at a Shell-branded station on the outskirts of this Dutch city, the price of a gallon of unleaded gas started ticking higher, rising more than three-and-a-half cents by closing time. A little later, a competing station three miles down the road raised its price about the same amount. The two stations are among thousands of companies that use artificial-intelligence software to set prices (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). In doing so, they are testing a fundamental precept of the market economy. [...] Advances in AI are allowing retail and wholesale firms to move beyond 'dynamic pricing' software, which has for years helped set prices for fast-moving goods, like airline tickets or flat-screen televisions. Older pricing software often used simple rules, such as always keeping prices lower than a competitor. These new systems crunch mountains of historical and real-time data to predict how customers and competitors will react to any price change under different scenarios, giving them an almost superhuman insight into market dynamics. Programmed to meet a certain goal -- such as boosting sales -- the algorithms constantly update tactics after learning from experience. Even as the rise of algorithms determining prices poses a challenge to anti-trust law, authorities in the United States and Europe haven't opened probes or accused anyone of impropriety for using AI to set prices.
Government

Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey (washingtonpost.com) 810

The White House said today that President Trump has fired FBI director James Comey. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement: "President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 'The FBI is one of our Nation's most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,' said President Trump. A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately." The Washington Post reports: Earlier in the day, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, saying that only a "small number" of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the "hundreds and thousands" he'd claimed in his testimony. The letter was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, more than a week after Comey testified for hours in defense of his handling of the Clinton probe. In defending the probe at last week's hearing, Comey offered seemingly new details to underscore the seriousness of the situation FBI agents faced last fall when they discovered thousands of Clinton aide Huma Abedin's emails on the computer of her husband, Anthony Weiner. "Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information," Comey said, adding later, "His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state." At another point in the testimony, Comey said Abedin "forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information." Neither of those statements is accurate, said people close to the investigation. Tuesday's letter said "most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner's laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner." The letter also corrected the impression Mr. Comey's testimony had left with some listeners that 12 classified emails were among those forwarded by Abedin to Weiner.
Businesses

'Silicon Valley Is Missing Unicorns Because It Doesn't Understand Poor People' (cnbc.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes: Silicon Valley might be hunting unicorns in the wrong places. According to one top federal health official, entrepreneurs and investors are overlooking one massive population: Low-income Americans who qualify for Medicaid. That's a big mistake, given that new funds are available for those that are bringing IT innovation to the space, said Medicaid chief medical officer Andrey Ostrovsky. "My gut is that it's a big opportunity with $500 billion in federal spend every year in a system that hasn't evolved technologically much since 1965," Ostrovsky said. "There are unicorns sitting in there," he added.
United States

Tunnel Collapses At Nuclear Facility Once Called 'An Underground Chernobyl Waiting To Happen' (gizmodo.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Managers at the Hanford Site in Washington State told workers to "take cover" Tuesday morning after a tunnel leading to a massive plutonium finishing plant collapsed. The emergency is especially worrisome, since Hanford is commonly known as "the most toxic place in America," with one former governor calling it "an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen." Worrisome might actually be an understatement. An emergency has been declared. The accident occurred near the 200 East Area, the home of several solid waste sites. More specifically, the tunnel that collapsed was one filled with highly radioactive train cars that once carried spent fuel rods containing deeply dangerous plutonium and uranium from a reactor on the Columbia River to the processing facility. Those reactors once produced plutonium for America's nuclear arsenal, though production ended in 1980. The cleanup process that followed has gone on for nearly 30 years. Back to the poor workers, though. They've been instructed to stay indoors, and one manager reportedly sent out a message telling workers to "secure ventilation in your building" and "refrain from eating or drinking." When you can't even have a glass of water, you know the nuclear emergency is bad. The U.S. Department of Energy sent out a press release around 1pm EST that said "facility personnel have been evacuated," while workers at nearby sites have been instructed to stay indoors. A spokesperson also told the press that "there was no evidence to suggest that radioactive materials had been released and that all of the workers in the area were accounted for."
Government

Officials Fear Russia Could Try To Target United States Through Kaspersky AV (go.com) 173

Russia's growing aggression toward the United States has deepened concerns among U.S. officials that Russian spies might try to exploit one of the world's most respected cybersecurity firms to snoop on Americans or sabotage key U.S. systems, according to an ABC News investigation. From the report: Products from the company, Kaspersky Lab, based in Moscow, are widely used in homes, businesses and government agencies throughout the United States, including the Bureau of Prisons. Kaspersky Lab's products are stocked on the shelves of Target and Best Buy, which also sells laptops loaded by manufacturers with the firm's anti-virus software. But in a secret memorandum sent last month to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Intelligence Committee raised possible red flags about Kaspersky Lab and urged the intelligence community to address potential risks posed by the company's powerful market position. "This [is an] important national security issue," declared the bipartisan memorandum, described to ABC News by congressional sources.
Piracy

Spotify Used 'Pirate' MP3 Files In Its Early Days: Report (torrentfreak.com) 44

According to Rasmus Fleischer, one of the early The Pirate Bay figures, Spotify used unlicensed music in its early days. From a report: "Spotify's beta version was originally a pirate service. It was distributing MP3 files that the employees happened to have on their hard drives," he reveals. Rumors that early versions of Spotify used 'pirate' MP3s have been floating around the Internet for years. People who had access to the service in the beginning later reported downloading tracks that contained 'Scene' labeling, tags, and formats, which are the tell-tale signs that content hadn't been obtained officially. Solid proof has been more difficult to come by but Fleischer says he knows for certain that Spotify was using music obtained not only from pirate sites, but the most famous pirate site of all.
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Planning To Turn Windows 10 PCs Into Amazon Echo Competitors (theverge.com) 82

Speaking of Amazon's Echo devices, it appears Microsoft also wants a slice of this nascent market. The Verge's Tom Warren claims that Microsoft has been working on a feature for Windows 10 that would allow it "to better compete with devices like Amazon's Echo." Dubbed HomeHub, the feature is designed to create "a family environment for a PC with shared access to calendars, apps, and even a new welcome screen." He adds: Microsoft is even planning to support smart home devices like Philips' Hue lights, to enable Windows 10 to act as a hub to control and manage smart home hardware. While we've heard about HomeHub before, The Verge has obtained internal concepts of exactly how Microsoft is imagining HomeHub will work. The major addition is a new welcome screen that includes an "always on" digital corkboard to let families use to-do lists, calendars, and notes. The welcome screen is really designed for kitchen PCs and new smaller hardware with screens that will support Cortana voice commands from across the room.
Businesses

Canonical Founder Says Recent Changes In Ubuntu Were Necessary To Prepare the Company For an IPO (zdnet.com) 128

An anonymous reader writes: Canonical was doing well with Ubuntu and cloud and container-related technologies, such as Juju, LXD, and Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS). In addition, its OpenStack and Kubernetes software stacks, according to Shuttleworth, are growing by leaps and bounds on both the public and private cloud. Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said "in the last year, Ubuntu cloud growth had been 70 percent on the private cloud and 90 percent on the public cloud." In particular, "Ubuntu has been gaining more customers on the big five public clouds." What hadn't succeeded was Canonical's attempt to make Unity the universal interface for desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Shuttleworth was personally invested in this project, but at day's end, it wasn't getting enough adoption to make it profitable. So, Shuttleworth said with regret, Unity had to be dropped. This move also means Canonical will devote more of its time to "putting the company on the path to a IPO. We must figure out what steps we need to take moving forward." That means focusing on Canonical's most profitable lines. Specifically, "Ubuntu will never die. Ubuntu is the default platform on cloud computing. Juju, MaaS, and OpenStack are nearly unstoppable. We need to work out more of our IoT path. At the same time, we had to cut out those parts that couldn't meet an investors' needs. The immediate work is get all parts of the company profitable."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How To Improve At Work When You're Not Getting Feedback? 222

An anonymous reader writes: Too many managers avoid giving any kind of feedback, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. If you work for a boss who doesn't provide feedback, it's easy to feel rudderless. It can be especially disorienting if you're new in the role, new to the company, or a recent graduate new to the workforce. In the absence of specific guidance, is there any way to know what the average boss would want you to work on? What would you advise someone who works in IT, engineering, coding, designing or any similar industry?
Bitcoin

ISPs Could Take Down Large Parts of Bitcoin Ecosystem If They Wanted To (bleepingcomputer.com) 72

An anonymous reader writes: A rogue ISP could take down large parts of the Bitcoin ecosystem, according to new research that will be presented in two weeks at the 38th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in San Jose, USA. According to the researchers, there are two types of attack scenarios that could be leveraged via BGP hijacks to cripple the Bitcoin ecosystem: hijacking mining proceeds, causing double-spending errors, and delaying transactions. These two (partition and delay) attacks are possible because most of the entire Bitcoin ecosystem isn't as decentralized as most people think, and it still runs on a small number of ISPs. For example, 13 ISPs host 30% of the entire Bitcoin network, 39 ISPs host 50% of the whole Bitcoin mining power, and 3 ISPs handle 60% of all Bitcoin traffic. Currently, researchers found that around 100 Bitcoin nodes are the victims of BGP hijacks each month.
Medicine

US Life Expectancy Can Vary By 20 Years Depending On Where You Live (npr.org) 292

After analyzing records from every U.S. county between 1980 and 2014, Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and his team found that life expectancy can vary by more than 20 years from county to county. "In counties with the longest lifespans, people tended to live about 87 years, while people in places with the shortest lifespans typically made it only about 67," reports NPR. From the report: The discrepancy is equivalent to the difference between the low-income parts of the developing world and countries with high incomes, Murray notes. For example, it's about the same gap as the difference between people living in Japan, which is among countries with the longest lifespans, and India, which has one of the shortest, Murray says. The U.S. counties with the longest life expectancy are places like Marin County, Calif., and Summit County, Colo. -- communities that are well-off and more highly educated. Counties with the shortest life expectancy tend to have communities that are poorer and less educated. The lowest is in Oglala Lakota County, S.D., which includes the Pine Ridge Native American reservation. Many of the other counties with the lowest life expectancy are clustered along the lower Mississippi River Valley as well as parts of West Virginia and Kentucky, according to the analysis. There's no sign of the gap closing. In fact, it's appears to be widening. Between 1980 and 2014, the gap between the highest and lowest lifespans increased by about two years. The reasons for the gap are complicated. But it looks like the counties with the lowest lifespans haven't made much progress fighting significant health problems such as smoking and obesity. The study has been published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Communications

T-Mobile No Longer Offering 'Free Data For Life' Offer For New Tablets (tmonews.com) 40

T-Mobile has quietly killed off its "free data for life" offer for new tablets. In a statement provided to TmoNews, T-Mobile said: "When we launched Free Data For Life in 2013, 200MB of high-speed data was a lot. Today, customers want unlimited and we're all in with T-Mobile ONE. Customers who have T-Mobile ONE can add unlimited LTE data on a tablet for just $20 a month with autopay. Nothing changes for current customers with Free Data For Life on a tablet. They can keep it as long as they like." From the report: T-Mobile has updated its Free Data for Life support page to say that the program is no longer available for new activations as of May 7, 2017. The Free Data for Life program was attractive because it let you get a bit of cellular data on your tablet every month, even if you weren't a T-Mobile customer. This was nice for people that were ultra-light tablet data users, and it gave customers of other carriers a taste of T-Mo. The good news is that at least anyone that signed up before May 7 can still get their free data every 30 days, so long as they own their tablet.

You can compare cell phone plans including T-Mobile plans at Wirefly.


Communications

FCC Says It Was Victim of Cyberattack After John Oliver Show (thehill.com) 205

On Sunday night, John Oliver urged his viewers to visit a website called "GoFCCYourself," which redirects users to a section of the FCC site where people can comment on the net neutrality proceeding. As a result, the FCC's site temporarily crashed. Now, it appears that the FCC is claiming its website has hit by a cyberattack late Sunday night. The Hill reports: "Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos)," FCC chief information officer David Bray said in a statement Monday. "These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC's comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host." The FCC's comments site went down in 2014 after the first time Oliver rallied his audience in support of net neutrality. In that case, it was widely believed the site went down because of the amount of traffic generated in the wake of Oliver's show. But Bray on Monday said that this recent instance was caused by a cyberattack and not a flood of people trying to give input. "These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC," he said.
Businesses

Comcast and Charter Agree Not To Compete Against Each Other In Wireless (arstechnica.com) 70

Comcast and Charter announced an agreement to cooperate in their plans to sell mobile phone service, an agreement that also forbids each company from making wireless mergers and acquisitions without the other's consent for one year. "That agreement could stoke Wall Street speculation among investors and analysts that the two largest U.S. cable companies together could decide to make a play for a carrier like T-Mobile U.S. Inc. or Sprint Corp.," wrote The Wall Street Journal. Ars Technica reports: The deal could violate antitrust law, said Harold Feld, an attorney and senior VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. "One of the basic ideas of antitrust law is that when companies that compete with each other, or could compete with each other, make an explicit agreement to not compete with each other, that violates the antitrust laws," Feld told Ars today. "Agreeing to coordinate with each other to avoid competition is expressly a violation of the antitrust laws." But that doesn't mean Comcast and Charter won't be able to follow through with their plan. It's impossible to say with absolute certainty whether any specific agreement violates antitrust law, and "both Comcast and Charter have very good lawyers," Feld said. Comcast and Charter have a combined 47 million internet subscribers, dominating the US market for high-speed broadband, but they do not compete against each other in any city or town. The Comcast/Charter cooperation agreement fits in nicely with Comcast's mobile plans, because the company intends to sell smartphone data plans only to customers who also have Comcast home Internet service. Comcast's mobile service is scheduled to be available by the end of June, while Charter has said it intends to offer similar service in 2018.
Facebook

Facebook Takes Out Full-page Newspaper Ads To Help UK Citizens Detect Fake New (venturebeat.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has today taken out full-page ads in U.K. newspapers ahead of the general election that's scheduled to take place next month. These ads are designed to educate the public about how to spot fake news online. Appearing in nationwide publications, including the Guardian and the Telegraph, Facebook's "Tips for spotting false news" ad is similar to the one it published in France last month and covers such areas as being skeptical of misleading headlines, spotting manipulated images, and checking the URL of the story. The advice offered may not always help, however -- under "Consider the photos," for example, the text reads: "You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from." But anyone requiring advice on how to spot fake news through a newspaper ad likely isn't tech savvy enough to know how to do that or to even understand what it means. Alongside these ads, Facebook also revealed that is has deleted "tens of thousands" of accounts that it believes were deliberately spreading fake news and that it is also updating its algorithms to demote articles it suspects of carrying dubious messaging.
Businesses

Internet Giants Like Apple and Google 'Abuse Their Privileged Position', Says Spotify CEO (cnbc.com) 54

Giant companies like Apple and Alphabet's Google "can and do abuse their privileged positions," according to a letter sent to the European Commission by music streaming service Spotify, rival firm Deezer and Rocket Internet, among others. From a report: "Our collective experience is that where online platforms have a strong incentive to turn into gatekeepers because of their dual role, instead of maximizing consumer welfare," the CEOs wrote. In one part of the letter, the CEOs said examples of platforms turning into gatekeepers include them "restricting access to data or interaction with consumers, biased ranking and search results to lack of clarity, imbalanced terms and conditions and preference of their own vertically integrated services."
Businesses

Your Boss Is Not More Stressed Out Than You, Science Says (vice.com) 245

An anonymous reader writes: Work under capitalism is a brutal psychological gauntlet -- low pay, long hours, and little to no safety net. But bosses usually expect you to take some solace in the fact that you're not doing their (supposedly more difficult) job, even if they make more money. Some part of you might think that's bullshit, but hey, what do you know? Well, according to new work from researchers from the University of Manchester, University College London, and the University of Essex, it probably is bullshit. According to their study, published on Friday in the Journals of Gerontology, people lower on the corporate ladder are, on average, more stressed than people higher up. Worse, according to the study, the elevated stress continues into retirement for average working people. 'Workers in lower status jobs tend to have more stressful working conditions -- they have lower pay, poorer pension arrangements, less control over their work, and report more unsupportive colleagues and managers,' Tarani Chandola, a professor of medical sociology at the University of Manchester and one of the paper's authors, wrote me in an email.
Communications

John Oliver Gets Fired Up Over Net Neutrality, Causes FCC's Site To Temporarily Crash (fortune.com) 153

Three years ago, late night comedian John Oliver propelled an arcane telecom topic into the national debate by spurring millions of ordinary Americans to file comments with the Federal Communications Commission in favor of "net neutrality." Among other things, that effort caused the FCC website to crash, which couldn't handle the "overwhelming" traffic. Now Oliver is back at it, and he is already causing the site some troubles. From a report on Fortune: On Sunday night, Oliver devoted a chunk of his Last Week Tonight show to condemning a plan by the FCC's new Chairman, Ajit Pai, to tear up current net neutrality rules, which forbid Internet providers from delivering some websites faster than others. In the clip, Oliver urges viewers to visit a website called "GoFCCYourself," which redirects users to a section of the FCC site where people can comment on the net neutrality proceeding, known as "Restoring Internet Freedom" in Pai's parlance. Viewers took up Oliver's offer in spades -- so much so that the FCC's servers appeared to be overwhelmed by the flood of traffic. The comment page is currently loading with delays and, according to reports from several outlets, the site went down altogether for a while. On Monday, Ashley Boyd, VP of Advocacy for Mozilla, also published a blog post to remind people that the next 10 days are critical for the internet's future. Much like Oliver, Mozilla is also making it easier for people to voice their opinion. The post adds: Add your name to our letter, and we'll deliver your message straight to the FCC. You can also record an impassioned voicemail using Mozilla's call tool. So far, Internet users have recorded more than 50 hours of audio for the FCC's ears.
AI

Artificial Intelligence Closes In On the Work of Junior Lawyers (ft.com) 103

An anonymous reader shares a Financial Times article: After more than five years at a leading City law firm, Daniel van Binsbergen quit his job as a solicitor to found Lexoo, a digital start-up for legal services in the fledgling "lawtech" sector. Mr Van Binsbergen says he is one of many. "The number of lawyers who have been leaving to go to start-ups has skyrocketed compared to 15 years ago," he estimates. Many are abandoning traditional firms to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities or join in-house teams, as the once-unthinkable idea of routine corporate legal work as an automated task becomes reality (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Law firms, which tend to be owned by partners, have been slow to adopt technology. Their traditional and profitable model involves many low-paid legal staff doing most of the routine work, while a handful of equity partners earn about 1m pound ($1.30m) a year. But since the 2008 financial crisis, their business model has come under pressure as companies cut spending on legal services, and technology replicated the repetitive tasks that lower-level lawyers at the start of their careers had worked on in the past. [...] "We get AI to do a bunch of things cheaply, efficiently and accurately -- which is most important," says Wendy Miller, partner and co-head of real estate disputes at BLP. "It leaves lawyers to do the interesting stuff."
Businesses

Support For a Universal Basic Income Is Inching Up In Europe (qz.com) 696

An anonymous reader writes: Finland and the Netherlands are running modest pilots, and others are being considered by governments in France, Switzerland, and the UK, and by a host of nonprofits. To gauge public enthusiasm for the idea, Dalia Research, a Berlin-based market research firm, has been surveying Europeans' attitudes toward basic income since 2016. They've found a warm welcome. In a March survey, 68% of Europeans said they would vote yes in a basic-income referendum, up from 64% last year. The survey was put to 11,000 citizens in 28 European Union states and has a 1.1% margin of error. But not everyone is ready to see it implemented right away -- 48% said they wanted to test the policy first, while 31% advocated for adopting it as soon as possible. The 24% of respondents who opposed a UBI in both years were most concerned about the economic impact, including the expense, the risk of reducing the motivation to work, and the possibility foreigners would take exploit it. Those in favor of a UBI were most convinced by the promise of increased security and freedom, namely a reduced financial anxiety over meeting basic needs, more equality in opportunities, and the prospect of greater financial independence and self-reliance.
Facebook

Did A Billionaire Harvest Big Data From Facebook To 'Hijack' Democracy? (theguardian.com) 452

Long-time Slashdot readers walterbyrd and whoever57 both submitted the same article about the mysterious data analytics company Cambridge Analytica and its activities with SCL Group, a 25-year-old military psyops company in the U.K. later bought by "secretive hedge fund billionaire" Robert Mercer. One former employee calls it "this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump." Facebook was the source of the psychological insights that enabled Cambridge Analytica to target individuals. It was also the mechanism that enabled them to be delivered on a large scale. The company also (perfectly legally) bought consumer datasets -- on everything from magazine subscriptions to airline travel -- and uniquely it appended these with the psych data to voter files... Finding "persuadable" voters is key for any campaign and with its treasure trove of data, Cambridge Analytica could target people high in neuroticism, for example, with images of immigrants "swamping" the country. The key is finding emotional triggers for each individual voter. Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was "voter disengagement" and "to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home"... In the U.S., the government is bound by strict laws about what data it can collect on individuals. But, for private companies anything goes.
A branch of this company reportedly also received half the campaign budgets of four pro-Brexit campaign groups, and there's some dark talk about "military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy...being used to sway elections in ways that people can't even see." The article notes the two firms have plied their services in Russia as well as Lithuania and the Ukraine, and suggests that "we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored."
Government

Oracle And Cisco Both Support The FCC's Rollback Of Net Neutrality (thehill.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes The Hill: Oracle voiced support on Friday for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's controversial plan to roll back the agency's net neutrality rules. In a letter addressed to the FCC, the company played up its "perspective as a Silicon Valley technology company," hammering the debate over the rules as a "highly political hyperbolic battle," that is "removed from technical, economic, and consumer reality"... Oracle wrote in their letter [PDF] that they believe Pai's plan to remove broadband providers from the FCC's regulatory jurisdiction "will eliminate unnecessary burdens on, and competitive imbalances for, ISPs [internet service providers] while enhancing the consumer experience and driving investment"... Other companies in support of Pai's plan, like AT&T and Verizon, have made the argument that the rules stifled investment in the telecommunications sector, specifically in broadband infrastructure.
Cisco has also argued that strict net neutrality laws on ISPs "restrict their ability to use innovative network management technology, provide appropriate levels of quality of service, and deliver new features and services to meet evolving consumer needs. Cisco believes that allowing the development of differentiated broadband products, with different service and content offerings, will enhance the broadband market for consumers."
Open Source

Court Allows Case Over Violating Open Source License (lexology.com) 156

Slashdot reader destinyland writes: The District Court for the Northern District of California recently issued an opinion that is being hailed as a victory for open source software. In this case, the court denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of an open source software license, paving the way for further action enforcing the conditions of the GNU General Public License... As part of its motion to dismiss, Hancom argued that using open source code offered under open source licensing terms does not form a contract... The District Court ruled that Artifex's breach of contract claim could proceed, finding that the GPL, by its express terms, requires that third parties agree to the GPL's obligations if they distribute the open-source-licensed software [and] concluded that royalty-free licensing under open source conditions does not preclude a claim for damages...

In denying a motion to dismiss, the District Court only holds that the claims may proceed on the theories enunciated by Artifex, not necessarily that they will ultimately succeed. Still, the case represents a significant step forward for open source plaintiffs... In the past decade, while enforcement of open source licensing violations has become more common, few enforcement cases result in published law. The open source community will be watching this case carefully, and this initial decision vindicates the rights of the open source authors to enforce GPL terms on both breach of contract and copyright theories.

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