Firefox

Mozilla Testing an Opt-Out System For Firefox Telemetry Collection (bleepingcomputer.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes: "Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to change the way Firefox collects usage data (telemetry), and the organization is currently preparing to test an opt-out clause so they could collect more data relevant to the browser's usage," reports Bleeping Computer. "In a Google Groups discussion that's been taking place since Monday, Mozilla engineers cite the lack of usable data the Foundation is currently receiving via its data collection program. The problem is that Firefox collects data from a very small fraction of its userbase, and this data may not be representative of the browser's real usage." Mozilla would like to fix this by flipping everyone's telemetry setting to enabled and adding an opt-out clause. Engineers also plan to embed Google's RAPPAR project [1, 2] for anonymous data collection.
The Almighty Buck

Medium Will Now Pay Writers Based On How Many 'Claps' They Get (theverge.com) 91

Medium is getting creative with how they're paying its writers. The San Francisco-based online publishing platform will determine how much an author is paid by how many claps a story receives. Claps are basically Medium's equivalent of a Like, and they recently replaced the "recommend" feature -- a little heart button at the end of each article. The Verge reports: The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article. Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber's fee between the different articles they've read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It's not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button. It's a pretty strange way to implement payments, since it relies on a really arbitrary metric that individual subscribers might use in really different and inconsistent ways. Time spent on page and whether someone shared an article probably would have been useful metrics by which to tell how much a reader enjoyed a piece, but maybe that makes too much sense for a startup in the middle of its second business model pivot. On the positive side, claps can help Medium surface content that people are enjoying and get it in front of more readers.
Crime

Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam (desmoinesregister.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Des Moines Register: Eddie Tipton, the Iowa brainpower behind a case of multi-state lottery fraud, will spend up to 25 years in prison for rigging "random" drawing jackpots. It's unknown how many years Tipton will actually spend in prison. He could be paroled within three or four years, his attorneys noted. Tipton, 54, was a longtime computer programmer in the Iowa offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association who installed software that allowed him to pick winning numbers in some of the nation's most popular lottery drawings. His scam began to unravel following unsuccessful attempts to anonymously collect a $16.5 million Hot Lotto ticket that was purchased at a Des Moines convenience store in 2010. "I certainly regret," Tipton said. "It's difficult even saying that. With all the people I know behind me that I hurt and I regret it. I'm sorry."
The Courts

Justice Department Walks Back Demand For Information On Anti-Trump Website (theverge.com) 106

After issuing a warrant to DreamHost for "all files" related to an anti-trump website, the Justice Department says it's scaling back a demand for information from hosting service DreamHost. The Verge reports: In a legal filing today, the Justice Department argues that the warrant was proper, but also says DreamHost has since brought up information that was previously "unknown." In light of that, it has offered to carve out information demanded in the warrant, specifically pledging to not request information like HTTP logs tied to IP addresses. The department says it is only looking for information related to criminal activity on the site, and says that "the government is focused on the use of the Website to organize, to plan, and to effect a criminal act -- that is, a riot." Peaceful protestors, the government argues, are not the targets of the warrant. The filing asks the court to proceed with the new, less burdensome request, which, apart from the carved-out sections, still requests "all records or other information, pertaining to the Account, including all files, databases, and database records stored by DreamHost in relation to that Account." It's unclear if DreamHost will continue to fight the new demand.
IBM

IBM To Trace Food Contamination With Blockchain (cnbc.com) 44

Thelasko shares a report from CNBC: IBM has been joined by a group of global food giants including the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Walmart in an effort to reduce food contamination by using blockchain. The corporation announced Tuesday that it would enable global food businesses to use its blockchain network to trace the source of contaminated produce. IBM said that the problem of consumer health suffering at the hands of toxic food could be solved using its distributed ledger technology, which maintains a digital record of transactions rather than a physical one. It would enable food suppliers to source information about the origin, condition and movement of food, and to trace contaminated produce in mere seconds.
Security

Fourth US Navy Collision This Year Raises Suspicion of Cyber-Attacks (thenextweb.com) 306

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Early Monday morning a U.S. Navy Destroyer collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Singapore. The U.S. Navy initially reported that 10 sailors were missing, and today found "some of the remains" in flooded compartments. While Americans mourn the loss of our brave warriors, top brass is looking for answers. Monday's crash involving the USS John McCain is the fourth in the area, and possibly the most difficult to understand. So far this year 17 U.S. sailors have died in the Pacific southeast due to seemingly accidental collisions with civilian vessels.

Should four collisions in the same geographical area be chalked up to coincidence? Could a military vessel be hacked? In essence, what if GPS spoofing or administrative lockout caused personnel to be unaware of any imminent danger or unable to respond? The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) says there's no reason to think it was a cyber-attack, but they're looking into it: "2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities," tweeted Adm. John Richardson. The obvious suspects -- if a sovereign nation is behind any alleged attacks -- would be Russia, China, and North Korea, all of whom have reasonable access to the location of all four incidents. It may be chilling to imagine such a bold risk, but it's not outlandish to think a government might be testing cyber-attack capabilities in the field.

The Courts

Let Consumers Sue Companies (nytimes.com) 105

Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, writes: When a data breach at Home Depot in 2014 led to losses for banks nationwide, a group of banks filed a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation. Companies have the choice of taking legal action together. Yet consumers are frequently blocked from exercising the same legal right when they believe that companies have wronged them. That's because many contracts for products like credit cards and bank accounts have mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent consumers from joining group lawsuits, forcing them to go it alone. For example, a group lawsuit against Wells Fargo for secretly opening phony bank accounts was blocked by arbitration clauses that pushed individual consumers into closed-door proceedings. In 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was authorized to study mandatory arbitration and write rules consistent with the study. After five years of work, we recently finalized a rule to stop companies from denying groups of consumers the option of going to court when they are treated unfairly. Opponents have unleashed attacks to overturn the rule, and the House just passed legislation to that end. Before the Senate decides whether to protect companies or consumers, it's worth correcting the record. First, opponents claim that plaintiffs are better served by acting individually than by joining a group lawsuit. This claim is not supported by facts or common sense. Our study contained revealing data on the results of group lawsuits and individual actions. We found that group lawsuits get more money back to more people. In five years of group lawsuits, we tallied an average of $220 million paid to 6.8 million consumers per year. Yet in the arbitration cases we studied, on average, 16 people per year recovered less than $100,000 total. It is true that the average payouts are higher in individual suits. But that is because very few people go through arbitration, and they generally do so only when thousands of dollars are at stake, whereas the typical group lawsuit seeks to recover small amounts for many people. Almost nobody spends time or money fighting a small fee on their own. As one judge noted, "only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30."
Bitcoin

Estonia Proposes Estcoin, a Government Backed Cryptocurrency, Issued Via an Initial Coin Offering After e-Residency Success (cityam.com) 50

Estonia is living up to its digital reputation and setting tongues wagging with its latest idea: its very own digital currency issued via an initial coin offering (ICO). From a report: The buzz word of the moment in the heady world of cyptocurrencies, ICOs, are being used to raise cash via a digital token that's issued to investors. What investors get back in return depends what the company offers, much like crowdfunding, but can be some sort of stake in the company or merely being able to use the blockchain-based software it's building. But what's on offer in a potential ICO of a nation state? That's exactly what Estonia wants to work out. The head of its innovative e-residency programme has said the country is considering what the issuance of "estcoin", the country's very own digital currency, would look like. In a blog post, Kaspar Korjus said: "Estcoins could be managed by the Republic of Estonia, but accessed by anyone in the world through its e-Residency programme and launched through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)."
Businesses

People Start Hating Their Jobs at Age 35, Study Says (bloomberg.com) 212

Older workers tend to be more unhappy in their jobs than their younger colleagues, according to a survey of more than 2,000 U.K. employees by human resource firm Robert Half U.K. One in six British workers over age 35 said they were unhappy -- more than double the number for those under 35. Nearly a third of people over 55 said they didn't feel appreciated, while 16 percent said they didn't have friends at work. From a report: There's the stress of being in a high-ranking position -- or the disappointment of not making it far enough up the career ladder. True, salaries are higher, but life starts to get more expensive. "Work-life balance" starts to mean taking care of children, rather than just personal stress management. "There comes a time when either you haven't achieved success, work has burned you out, or lived experience tells you family is more important," said Cary Cooper, a workplace researcher at Manchester Business School. "You ask yourself: 'What am I doing this for?'"
Verizon

Verizon To Start Throttling All Smartphone Videos To 480p or 720p (arstechnica.com) 182

Verizon Wireless will start throttling video streams to resolutions as low as 480p on smartphones this week. Most data plans will get 720p video on smartphones, but customers won't have any option to completely un-throttle video. From a report: 1080p will be the highest resolution provided on tablets, effectively ruling out 4K video on Verizon's mobile network. Anything identified as a video will not be given more than 10Mbps worth of bandwidth. This limit will affect mobile hotspot usage as well. Verizon started selling unlimited smartphone data plans in February of this year, and the carrier said at the time that it would deliver video to customers at the same resolution used by streaming video companies. "We deliver whatever the content provider gives us. We don't manipulate the data," Verizon told Ars in February. That changes beginning on Wednesday, both for existing customers and new ones. The changes were detailed today in an announcement of new unlimited data plans. Starting August 23, Verizon's cheapest single-line unlimited smartphone data plan will cost $75 a month, which is $5 less than it cost before. The plan will include only "DVD-quality streaming" of 480p on phones and 720p on tablets.The new Verizon cell phone plans can be compare side by side here, along with all of Verizon's existing plans.
China

China Relaunches World's Fastest Train (fortune.com) 111

China has decided to relaunch the world's fastest train service following a fatal crash in 2011, where the high speed train service reduced its upper limit from its then-record holding 350 km/h (217 miles/hour) to 250-300 km/h (155-186 miles/hour). Fortune reports: Government-controlled website Thepaper.cn reported that seven pairs of bullet trains will be operating under the name "Fuxing," meaning rejuvenation, according to the South China Morning Post. The trains will once again run at 350 km/h, with a maximum speed of 400 km/h (248 mph). It is reported that the train service will boast a monitoring system that will automatically slow the trains in case of emergency. The Beijing-Shanghai line will begin operating on 21 September and will shorten the nearly 820 mile journey by an hour, to four hours thirty minutes. Nearly 600 million people use this route each year, providing a reported $1 billion in profits . Other routes include Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, which will begin operation today.
Bitcoin

Third Party Trackers On Web Shops Can Identify Users Behind Bitcoin Transactions (helpnetsecurity.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Help Net Security: More and more shopping websites accept cryptocurrencies as a method of payment, but users should be aware that these transactions can be used to deanonymize them -- even if they are using blockchain anonymity techniques such as CoinJoin. Independent researcher Dillon Reisman and Steven Goldfeder, Harry Kalodner and Arvind Narayanan from Princeton University have demonstrated that third-party online tracking provides enough information to identify a transaction on the blockchain, link it to the user's cookie and, ultimately, to the user's real identity. "Based on tracking cookies, the transaction can be linked to the user's activities across the web. And based on well-known Bitcoin address clustering techniques, it can be linked to their other Bitcoin transactions," they noted. "We show that a small amount of additional information, namely that two (or more) transactions were made by the same entity, is sufficient to undo the effect of mixing. While such auxiliary information is available to many potential entities -- merchants, other counterparties such as websites that accept donations, intermediaries such as payment processors, and potentially network eavesdroppers -- web trackers are in the ideal position to carry out this attack," they pointed out.
Communications

Disney Will Price Streaming Service At $5 Per Month, Analyst Says (fiercecable.com) 129

Earlier this month, Disney announced it would end its distribution deal with Netflix and launch its own streaming service in 2019. Now, according to MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson, we have learned that Disney's new streaming service will be priced around $5 per month in order to drive wider adoption. FierceCable reports: Nathanson said that the new Disney streaming service and the upcoming ESPN streaming service need a clear distinction. The ESPN service will likely test different prices as it prepares ESPN to be ready to go fully over-the-top, according to the report, but the Disney service is about building asset value instead of taking licensing money from SVOD deals. At $5 per month in ARPU, Nathanson sees revenues from the Disney streaming service ranging from $34 million to $38 million in the first year and more than $230 million by year three. But with the loss of Netflix licensing revenues and accelerated marketing costs for launching the new service, Nathanson predicted Disney's losses will increase by about $200 million to $425 million per year. If Disney's new streaming service does end up costing around $5 per month, could you justify paying for it?
United Kingdom

Energy Firm Slapped With $65,000 Fine For Making 1.5 Million Nuisance Calls (theregister.co.uk) 65

A UK firm offering people energy-saving solutions has been fined after making almost 1.5 million unsolicited calls without checking if the numbers were registered on the UK's opt-out database. From a report: Southampton-based Home Logic used a dialler system to screen the telephone numbers that it planned to call against the Telephone Preference Service register, which allows people to opt out of receiving marketing calls. This system was unavailable for at least 90 days out of the 220 between April 2015 and March 2016 due to technical issues -- but that didn't stop Home Logic from continuing to make phone calls. Some 1,475,969 were made in that time. And, as a result, Blighty's data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office received 133 complaints about the firm from people who had registered with the TPS and did not expect to be picking up the phone to marketeers. It ruled that the biz had breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and duly fined it 50,000 pound ($64,500).
Education

Does the World Need Polymaths? (bbc.com) 206

Two hundred years ago, it was still possible for one person to be a leader in several different fields of inquiry. Today that is no longer the case. So is there a role in today's world for the polymath -- someone who knows a lot about a lot of things? From a report: Bobby Seagull's fist-pumping and natty dressing, and Eric Monkman's furrowed brow, flashing teeth, contorted facial expressions and vocal delivery -- like a fog horn with a hangover -- made these two young men the stars of the last University Challenge competition. [...] They're still recognised in the street. "People often ask me, do you intimidate people with your knowledge," says Monkman. "But the opposite is the case. I have wide knowledge but no deep expertise. I am intimidated by experts." Seagull, like Monkman, feels an intense pressure to specialise. They regard themselves as Jacks-of-all-Trades, without being master of one. "When I was young what I really wanted to do was know a lot about a lot," says Monkman. "Now I feel that if I want to make a novel contribution to society I need to know a great deal about one tiny thing." The belief that researchers need to specialise goes back at least two centuries. From the beginning of the 19th Century, research has primarily been the preserve of universities. Ever since, says Stefan Collini, Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge University, researchers have labels attached to them. "They're professor of this or that, and you get a much more self-conscious sense of the institutional divides between domains of knowledge."

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