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The Internet

Thousands Of Cubans Now Have Internet Access (ap.org) 65

There's been a dramatic change in one of the world's least-connected countries. An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Since the summer of 2015, the Cuban government has opened 240 public Wi-Fi spots in parks and on street corners across the country... The government estimates that 100,000 Cubans connect to the internet daily. A new feature of urban life in Cuba is the sight of people sitting at all hours on street corners or park benches, their faces illuminated by the screen of smartphones connected by applications such as Facebook Messenger to relatives in Miami, Ecuador or other outposts of the Cuban diaspora...

Cuban ingenuity has spread internet far beyond those public places: thousands of people grab the public signals through commercially available repeaters, imported illegally into Cuba and often sold for about $100 -- double the original price. Mounted on rooftops, the repeaters grab the public signals and create a form of home internet increasingly available in private rentals for tourists and cafes and restaurants for Cubans and visitors alike.

The article also points out that last month, for the first time ever, 2,000 Cubans began receiving home internet access.
Security

Hamas 'Honey Trap' Dupes Israeli Soldiers (securityweek.com) 92

wiredmikey quotes Security Week: The smartphones of dozens of Israeli soldiers were hacked by Hamas militants pretending to be attractive young women online, an Israeli military official said Wednesday. Using fake profiles on Facebook with alluring photos, Hamas members contacted the soldiers via groups on the social network, luring them into long chats, the official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

Dozens of the predominantly lower-ranked soldiers were convinced enough by the honey trap to download fake applications which enabled Hamas to take control of their phones, according to the official.

Facebook

Facebook No Longer Clearly Labels Edited Posts (mashable.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Have you ever made a cringeworthy mistake in a Facebook post? Don't lie, the answer is yes. If you have a sense of shame, Facebook at least allows you to go back and correct your gaffe by editing the post, a feature that certain other social media networks still haven't added. But evidence of your slip-up lived on with the tiny "Edited" label on the bottom of the post, signaling to your followers that you cared just enough to correct yourself on the internet. Sad. Apparently, however, that's no longer the case. It seems that Facebook has removed the on-post edited label, making it much more difficult to know when someone actually took the time to fix their mistake. In order to actually know whether or not your eyes were playing tricks on you when a friend's rant no longer has 15 spelling errors the second time you see it, you'll need to do some digging. Here's how the new editing looks, courtesy of my colleague Raymond Wong and his doubts about how cool the upcoming Nintendo Switch actually is. I noticed that he added a comment about the Switch, so I checked out the post information, via the drop-down menu. To see what happened, I have to view the edit history. When I look at his edit history, I can see all the changes that were made. In most cases, this type of editing isn't a big deal, but the move to hide post edit labels takes away one of the few features that provided any transparency for our online behavior.
Security

Security Experts Rebut The Guardian's Report That Claimed WhatsApp Has a Backdoor (gizmodo.com) 111

William Turton, writing for Gizmodo: This morning, the Guardian published a story with an alarming headline: "WhatsApp backdoor allows snooping on encrypted messages." If true, this would have massive implications for the security and privacy of WhatsApp's one-billion-plus users. Fortunately, there's no backdoor in WhatsApp, and according to Alec Muffett, an experienced security researcher who spoke to Gizmodo, the Guardian's story is a "major league fuckwittage." [...] Fredric Jacobs, who was the iOS developer at Open Whisper Systems, the collective that designed and maintains the Signal encryption protocol, and who most recently worked at Apple, said, "Nothing new. Of course, if you don't verify keys Signal/WhatsApp/... can man-in-the-middle your communications." "I characterize the threat posed by such reportage as being fear and uncertainty and doubt on an 'anti-vaccination' scale," Muffett, who previously worked on Facebook's engineering security infrastructure team, told Gizmodo. "It is not a bug, it is working as designed and someone is saying it's a 'flaw' and pretending it is earth shattering when in fact it is ignorable." The supposed "backdoor" the Guardian is describing is actually a feature working as intended, and it would require significant collaboration with Facebook to be able to snoop on and intercept someone's encrypted messages, something the company is extremely unlikely to do. "There's a feature in WhatsApp that -- when you swap phones, get a new phone, factory reset, whatever -- when you install WhatsApp freshly on the new phone and continue a conversation, the encryption keys get re-negotiated to accommodate the new phone," Muffett told Gizmodo. Other security experts and journalists have also criticized The Guardian's story.
Facebook

Facebook's 'Journalism Project' Seeks To Strengthen Online News (cnet.com) 119

Facebook is taking more responsibility over its role in the media industry. CNET reports on the company's announcement: The social network on Wednesday announced a new initiative called the Journalism Project, which seeks to put Facebook on steadier footing with the news industry. As part of the effort, the social network will work to help train journalists on how to use Facebook as a reporting tool and assist the public in figuring out how to sniff out misinformation. "We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news," Fidji Simo, director of product for the project, wrote in a blog post. "And as a part of our service, we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive." The initiative is part of an about-face for Facebook, which for a long time shrugged off its influence on the news and downplayed the impact of misinformation circulated on Facebook on the 2016 presidential election. The company is now acknowledging the significant role it plays in the consumption of news online, along with its ability to shape journalism's future.
Facebook

Instagram Stories Hits 150M Active Users, Adds Advertising To Instagram Stories (techcrunch.com) 31

An anonymous reader writes: Instagram Stories now has as many users as the last number announced by Snapchat, the app Instagram copied. And it's swiftly moving to monetize that massive audience. Along with the new 150 million daily user stat, Instagram today announced the launch of ads mixed into Stories. The unclickable 5-second photo and 15-second video ads appear between different people's stories and can be easily skipped. Instagram will also provide business accounts with analytics on the reach, impressions, replies and exits of their Stories.
Earth

Amazon Still Lags Behind Apple, Google in Greenpeace Renewable Energy Report (greenpeace.org) 84

Amazon's cloud-computing unit says that one day it will rely solely on renewable power. But Greenpeace reports that a ramp-up in data-center construction in Virginia, where electricity comes mostly from coal and nuclear plants, makes that goal elusive. From the report: Apple, Google, Facebook, and newcomer Switch are taking some of the greatest strides towards 100% renewable energy, while companies such as Netflix, Amazon Web Services, and Samsung are lagging. The findings in Greenpeace USA's report outlines the energy footprints of large data center operators and nearly 70 of the most popular websites and applications. "Amazon continues to talk a good game on renewables but is keeping its customers in the dark on its energy decisions. This is concerning, particularly as Amazon expands into markets served by dirty energy," said Greenpeace USA Senior IT Analyst, Gary Cook. "Like Apple, Facebook, and Google, Netflix is one of the biggest drivers of the online world and has a critical say in how it is powered. Netflix must embrace the responsibility to make sure its growth is powered by renewables, not fossil fuels and it must show its leadership here," continued Cook.
Apple

Apple Said To Be Working on AR Glasses With Carl Zeiss (cnet.com) 66

Apple seems behind Microsoft, Google, and Facebook on the nascent augmented reality space, but that could change soon. From a report on CNET: The tech titan is working with the German optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss on a pair of lightweight AR/mixed reality glasses, according to tech evangelist Robert Scoble. The project, which could be announced as early as this year, was confirmed by a Zeiss employee, Scoble wrote in a Facebook post.
Privacy

WhatsApp, Gmail Roped Into Tougher EU Privacy Proposal (reuters.com) 36

Online messaging and email services such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail will face tough new rules on how they can track users under a proposal presented by the European Union executive on Tuesday. From a report: The web players will have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers' conversations and ask for their consent before tracking them online to serve them personalized ads. The proposal by the European Commission extends some rules that now only apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as "Over-The-Top" (OTT) services, seeking to close a perceived regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly U.S. Internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
Crime

Two Triple-Screen Laptops Were Stolen From Razer's CES Booth (theverge.com) 165

In a Facebook post, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said two of their prototype laptops shown off at CES 2017 were stolen. "We treat theft/larceny, and if relevant to this case, industrial espionage, very seriously -- it is cheating, and cheating doesn't sit well with us," Tan wrote. "Penalties for such crimes are grievous and anyone who would do this clearly isn't very smart." Both items were prototype models of a laptop, called Project Valerie, that has three 4K displays. The Verge reports: Tan says that Razer is working with law enforcement and CES management to investigate. He's also asking show attendees to email legal@razerzone.com with any info they might have on what happened. A company representative added that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction. The alleged theft occurred "after official show hours," says Allie Fried, director of global events communications for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. "The security of our exhibitors, attendees and their products and materials are our highest priority," Fried wrote in an email to The Verge. "We look forward to cooperating with law enforcement and Razer as the incident is investigated."
Privacy

Lawyer Rewrites Instagram's Privacy Policy So Kids and Parents Can Have a Meaningful Talk About Privacy (qz.com) 95

Kids, of age between 12 and 15, are increasingly joining Facebook's Instagram service, but according to a research, they likely don't even understand what they are signing up for. Jenny Afia, a privacy law expert at Schillings, a UK-based law firm, rewrote Instagram's terms of service in child-friendly language, so that not only the kids but their parents are able to understand what things are at stake. Highlighted are the changes the lawyer has made: Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that. [...] We may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs). [...] We might send you adverts connected to your interests which we are monitoring. You cannot stop us doing this and it will not always be obvious that it is an advert.
Space

SpaceX Gets the Green Light To Resume Rocket Launches (fortune.com) 44

Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket company has been cleared to resume flying following a launch pad explosion four months ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday. From a report on Fortune: The decision clears SpaceX to attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites as early as Monday, a day later than originally planned. SpaceX, owned by Tesla Motors Chief Executive Officer Musk, on Friday declined to comment about what caused the delay. Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is targeted for around 10:26 a.m. PST/1:26 p.m. EST. The FAA, which oversees commercial U.S. space launches, oversaw SpaceX's investigation into why a Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames on a launch pad in Florida as it was being fueled for a routine, prelaunch test on Sept. 1. The accident destroyed the $62 million booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite that had been partly leased by Facebook to expand Internet access in Africa.
Democrats

Obama Administration Releases Searchable Archive of Social Media Posts (theverge.com) 110

An anonymous reader writes: President Obama's entire social media presence as POTUS is now available in a single online archive. The administration today launched The Obama White House Social Media Archive, a searchable collection of everything the president and his administration posted on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest during his two terms in office. According to ArchiveSocial, the platform on which the archive is hosted, this includes more than 100 social media profiles associated with the White House and more than 250,000 total posts. As of right now, the archive's search function isn't the smoothest. A general search like "healthcare" will yield nearly 600 tangential results, including tweets from White House staffers. The Advanced Search will allow you to narrow things down a bit, with filters for date range and social media platform.
China

Apple Removes NYTimes App in China, Shows How Far It Is Willing To Go To Please Local Authority (theguardian.com) 174

Apple has removed the New York Times app from its store in China after a government request, in an example of how far the company will go to please the authorities in its third-largest market. From a report: China operates what is thought to be the largest internet censorship regime in the world, blocking thousands of foreign websites viewed as a threat by the ruling Communist party. Google, Twitter, Facebook Youtube and Instagram are all inaccessible. Apple removed the English and Chinese-language versions of the New York Times app on 23 December, although it was not immediately clear why. "We have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations," said Carolyn Wu, an Apple spokeswoman. "As a result the app must be taken down off the China app store. When this situation changes the app store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China."
Businesses

Snapchat Cited False User Numbers in Order To Boost IPO, Alleges Lawsuit by Ex-worker (yahoo.com) 30

A lawsuit filed against Snap Inc. by a former employee claims the company reported false growth numbers to investors in an effort to inflate its valuation. An anonymous reader shares a report: The plaintiff, Anothony Pompliano, joined the company (then known as Snapchat) as a growth lead in September of last year from Facebook. Pompliano claims the company's "institutional pandemic" of misrepresentation of its user numbers was fueled by its pursuit of a multi-billion dollar initial public offering (IPO) -- a number of prior reports have claimed the company could go public as soon as March. Snap's visual messaging app Snapchat is known for its popularity with younger millennials (aged 25 and under). Despite remaining tight-lipped about its official statistics, leaked reports put its daily active user base at 150 million (higher than that of fellow social platform Twitter). Additionally, its daily video views count hit an impressive 10 billion in April 2016. Numbers like these have had the industry buzzing over its expected IPO, with analysts claiming the company could be valued as high as $25 billion.
Facebook

Zuckerberg Could Run Facebook While Serving in Government Forever (techcrunch.com) 181

Reader randomErr writes: Closer look at SEC documents reveal that Zuckerberg only needs to own enough Facebook stock or have the board's approval to be allowed to serve in the government. This comes hours after, Facebook co-founder said his 2017 personal challenge is to meet and listen to people in all 50 states, hinting that he may have intentions of getting into politics. Without the limit, Zuckerberg has the opportunity to be appointed or elected to a more significant office and have as much time as he wants to make an impact, rather than just dipping in potentially as a cabinet member whose terms typically last less than two years. Of course, getting elected would require the faith of the people which has been shaken by the fake news scandal. Some would surely view a role in government as a selfish push for power despite Zuckerberg's massive philanthropy initiatives. Certain government offices might have historically required him to give up control of Facebook, but Donald Trump is currently redefining how much ownership of business one can have as President
Facebook

Facebook Is Sorry for Taking Down a Photo of a Nude Neptune Statue (fortune.com) 159

Facebook has apologized for mistakenly blocking a photo of a famous statue for being "sexually explicit." From a report on Fortune: The social media giant flagged a photograph of a 16th-century statue of the sea god Neptune in the Italian city of Bologna. The picture of the sculpture -- which was created in the 1560s -- was featured on the Facebook page of local writer and art historian Elisa Barbari called "Stories, curiosities and view of Bologna." Facebook told Barbari that the picture violated the company's privacy policies. "It shows an image with content that is explicitly sexual and which excessively shows the body or unnecessarily concentrates on body parts," the company said in a statement. The company added: "The usage of images or video of nude bodies or plunging necklines is not allowed, even if the use is for artistic or educational reasons." Facebook later said that blocking the photo was a mistake.
Facebook

All the Features Facebook Copied From Snapchat in 2016 (recode.net) 62

Last year, Facebook looked several times at Snapchat, a company that reportedly refused to be acquired by the social giant, for new features in Facebook Messenger, and its Instagram services. From a report on Recode: Here's the list of features Facebook launched this year that appear to be direct threats to Snapchat:
1. Facebook bought MSQRD, an app that creates silly face filters, in March.
2. It has since added the face filter technology to the main Facebook app and Messenger.
3. Facebook started testing a new Snapchat-style camera inside its main app. Messages sent using the new camera are ephemeral.
4. Facebook built a Snapchat clone app called Flash specifically for emerging markets like Brazil.
5. Instagram ripped off Snapchat's Stories feature. (It actually works pretty well.) Instagram also added ephemeral messaging.

Social Networks

Once Mocked, Facebook's $1 Billion Acquisition of Instagram Was Genius (bgr.com) 105

anderzole writes: "In April of 2012, Facebook shocked the tech world when it acquired Instagram for $1 billion," reports BGR. "At the time, the acquisition raised quite a few eyebrows, along with many more questions than answers. Not only did people wonder how Instagram would fit into Facebook's existing business, many also questioned if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had lost his mind by outlaying $1 billion for a company that, at the time, had no revenue." Nearly five years later, Facebook's Instagram acquisition "not only looks like a bargain, but a full-fledged stroke of genius."

Today Instagram still shows no signs of slowing down. Instagram's active user base jumped from 500 to 600 million in just the last 6 months alone, marking its fastest growth rate ever. "Incredibly, Facebook saw the long-term potential and impact of Instagram and managed to swoop in and acquire the company long before its user base began to accelerate wildly," writes BGR. "From an economic standpoint, Instagram is already paying dividends via highly targeted and lucrative ads. During the first quarter of 2016, for example, it was estimated that revenue from Instagram checked in at $572.5 million and accounted for 10% of Facebook's overall revenue. In fact, analysts at Credit Suisse believe that Instagram will have delivered $3.2 billion in revenue for Facebook by the time 2016 comes to a close. That's not bad for a $1 billion acquisition that Facebook is still in the relatively early stages of monetizing."

Instagram was also the second-fastest growing app of 2016, increasing its user base by 36% in just 12 months.
Transportation

Eavesdropping Uber Driver Helps Rescue 16-Year-Old From Her Pimps (washingtonpost.com) 219

Slashdot reader sabri writes "In California, an Uber driver saved a 16 year old girl from human traffickers after he overheard them talk about delivering the girl to a customer." The Washington Post reports: Uber driver Keith Avila picked up a passenger who looked like a 12-year-old girl in a short skirt Monday night. That was the first sign that something was off, he would say later. Two women got into his car with the girl outside a house in Sacramento. Halfway to their destination -- a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove, California -- they asked Avila to turn up the music, he said. Then the women turned to the girl. Avila listened in.

"They were describing what they were going to do when they get there: 'Check for guns. Get the money before you start touching up on the guy,'" Avila said on Facebook Live minutes after he dropped off the passengers, then called police to report the women whom he suspected of prostituting the child. The girl was 16, not 12, Elk Grove police told local news outlets. But Avila's suspicions were right, they said. The teen was being sold for sex at the Holiday Inn, and her eavesdropping Uber driver had saved her.

The teen girl was returned to her family, while the two women with her were charged with multiple felonies. The driver had only joined Uber a few weeks earlier, but his Facebook Live video from outside his fare's house has now been viewed more than 240,000 times.

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