Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 3

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case."
Businesses

Zillow Threatens To Sue Blogger For Using Its Photos For Parody (theverge.com) 83

Kate Wagner is facing potential legal charges by real estate Zillow for allegedly violating the site's terms of service by reproducing images from their site on her blog. Wagner's blog is called McMansion Hell -- a Tumblr blog that "highlights the absurdity of giant real estate properties and the ridiculous staging and photography that are omnipresent in their sales listings," writes Natt Garun via The Verge. From the report: A typical McMansion Hell blog post will have a professional photo of a home and / or its interior, along with captions scattered throughout by Wagner. She also adds information about the history and characteristics of various architecture styles, and uses photos from the likes of Zillow and Redfin to illustrate how so many real estate listings inaccurately use the terms. Under each post, Wagner adds a disclaimer that credits the original source of the images and cites Fair Use for the parody, which allows for use of copyrighted material for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." In a cease and desist letter to Wagner, Zillow claims Wagner's reproduction of these images do not apply under the Copyright Act. Additionally, the company claims McMansion Hell may "[interfere] with Zillow's business expectations and interests." As a result of the potential lawsuit, Wagner has temporarily taken McMansionHell.com down. In a statement to The Verge, Zillow said: "Zillow has a legal obligation to honor the agreements we make with our listing providers about how photos can be used. We are asking this blogger to take down the photos that are protected by copyright rules, but we did not demand she shut down her blog and hope she can find a way to continue her work."
Security

Judge Sentences Man To One Year In Prison For Hacking Smart Water Readers In Five US Cities (bleepingcomputer.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for hacking and disabling base stations belonging to water utility providers in five cities across the U.S. East Coast. Called TGB, these devices collect data from smart meters installed at people's homes and relay the information to the water provider's main systems, where it is logged, monitored for incidents, and processed for billing. Before he was fired by the unnamed TGB manufacturing company, Flanagan's role was to set up these devices. After he was fired, Flanagan used former root account passwords to log onto the devices and disable their ability to communicate with their respective water utility providers' upstream equipment. He wasn't that careful, as the FBI was able to trace back the attacks to his home. Apparently, the guy wasn't that silent, leaving behind a lot of clues. Flanagan's attacks resulted in water utility providers not being able to collect user equipment readings remotely. This incurred damage to the utility providers, who had to send out employees at customer premises to collect monthly readings. He was arrested in Nov 2014, and later pleaded guilty.
Government

Supreme Court Partially Revives Travel Ban, Will Hear Appeal (bloomberg.com) 502

From a report: The U.S. Supreme Court partially revived President Donald Trump's travel ban and said the justices will hear arguments in the fall. The justices said the ban can apply for now only to people who don't have a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." From a NYT report: Mr. Trump's revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation's refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government's screening and vetting procedures. [...] The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, recently blocked both the limits on travel and the suspension of the refugee program. It ruled on statutory rather than constitutional grounds, saying Mr. Trump had exceeded the authority granted him by Congress. The court agreed to review both cases, and said it would hear arguments in October, noting that the government had not asked it to act faster.
Security

Anthem To Pay $115 Million In The Largest Data Breach Settlement Ever (cnet.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Anthem, the largest health insurance company in the U.S., has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem, which didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment, isn't admitting any admitting any wrongdoing, according to a statement it made to CyberScoop acknowledging the settlement.

But if approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers, who announced the agreement Friday. The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for "information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls," the plaintiff attorneys said.

The breach compromised data for 80 million people, including their social security numbers, birthdays, street addresses (and email addresses) as well as income data. The $115 million settlement averages out to $1.43 for every person who was affected.
United States

Does US Have Right To Data On Overseas Servers? We're About To Find Out (arstechnica.com) 256

Long-time Slashdot reader quotes Ars Technica: The Justice Department on Friday petitioned the US Supreme Court to step into an international legal thicket, one that asks whether US search warrants extend to data stored on foreign servers. The US government says it has the legal right, with a valid court warrant, to reach into the world's servers with the assistance of the tech sector, no matter where the data is stored.

The request for Supreme Court intervention concerns a 4-year-old legal battle between Microsoft and the US government over data stored on Dublin, Ireland servers. The US government has a valid warrant for the e-mail as part of a drug investigation. Microsoft balked at the warrant, and convinced a federal appeals court that US law does not apply to foreign data.

According to the article, the U.S. government told the court that national security was at risk.
Piracy

Sci-Hub Ordered To Pay $15 Million In Piracy Damages (torrentfreak.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two years ago, academic publisher Elsevier filed a complaint (PDF) against Sci-Hub and several related "pirate" sites. It accused the websites of making academic papers widely available to the public, without permission. While Sci-Hub is nothing like the average pirate site, it is just as illegal according to Elsevier's legal team, who obtained a preliminary injunction from a New York District Court last fall. The injunction ordered Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan to quit offering access to any Elsevier content. However, this didn't happen. Instead of taking Sci-Hub down, the lawsuit achieved the opposite. Sci-Hub grew bigger and bigger up to a point where its users were downloading hundreds of thousands of papers per day. Although Elbakyan sent a letter to the court earlier, she opted not engage in the U.S. lawsuit any further. The same is true for her fellow defendants, associated with Libgen. As a result, Elsevier asked the court for a default judgment and a permanent injunction which were issued this week. Following a hearing on Wednesday, the Court awarded Elsevier $15,000,000 in damages, the maximum statutory amount for the 100 copyrighted works that were listed in the complaint. In addition, the injunction, through which Sci-Hub and LibGen lost several domain names, was made permanent.
Cellphones

Texting While Driving Now Legal In Colorado -- In Some Cases (kdvr.com) 95

Fines for texting and driving in Colorado have jumped to $300, but according to the fine print, the increased fine only applies to drivers who are texting in "a careless or imprudent manner." Therefore, drivers who are texting in any other manner are still within the law. FOX31 Denver reports: Before the new legislation, any texting while driving was illegal. Tim Lane of the Colorado District Attorney's Office confirmed the softening crackdown on all texting and driving. "The simple fact is that if you are texting while driving but not being careless, it's no longer illegal," he said. What constitutes "careless" driving is up to the discretion of each individual law enforcement officer. Cellphone use of any kind is still banned for drivers younger than 18. Teens caught with a phone in hand while driving will be slapped with a $50 fine.
Advertising

Home Improvement Chains Accused of False Advertising Over Lumber Dimensions (consumerist.com) 542

per unit analyzer writes: According to Consumerist, an attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit charging Home Depot (PDF) and Menards (PDF) with deceptive advertising practices by selling "lumber products that were falsely advertised and labeled as having product dimensions that were not the actual dimensions of the products sold." Now granted, this may be news to the novice DIYer, but overall most folks who are purchasing lumber at home improvement stores know that the so-called trade sizes don't match the actual dimensions of the lumber. Do retailers need to educate naive consumers about every aspect of the items they sell? (Especially industry quirks such as this...) Furthermore, as the article notes, it's hard to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged when these building materials are compatible with the construction of the purchaser's existing buildings. i.e., An "actual" 2x4 would not fit in a wall previously built with standard 2x4s -- selling the something as advertised would actually cause the purchaser more trouble in many cases.
Government

FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine On Florida Robocall Scammer (reuters.com) 80

The FCC on Thursday proposed a $120 million fine on a Florida resident alleged to have made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls to trick consumers with "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies. Reuters reports: The man, identified as Adrian Abramovich, allegedly made 96 million robocalls during a three-month period by falsifying caller identification information that matched the local area code and the first three digits of recipient's phone number, the FCC said. The calls, which were in violation of the U.S. telecommunications laws, offered vacation deals from companies such as Marriott International Inc, Expedia Inc, Hilton Inc and TripAdvisor Inc. Consumers who answered the calls were transferred to foreign call centers that tried to sell vacation packages, often involving timeshares. These call centers were not related to the companies, the FCC said.
Google

Alphabet Says Uber Knew About Stolen Self-Driving Car Files (cnet.com) 25

In a Wednesday filing with a California court, Alphabet said a former self-driving executive Anthony Levandowski hatched a plan with Uber to steal more than 14,000 proprietary documents, including designs for the sensors that help the car see its surroundings. CNET reports: Alphabet says Uber's former CEO, Travis Kalanick, knew about the files but told Levandowski to destroy them. Uber has argued that it did not encourage or condone Levandowski taking any files from Waymo or bringing them to Uber, and has noted that his employment agreement affirmed he wouldn't do that. The litigation between Alphabet and Uber has been reported as a primary reason Kalanick was forced to resign as Uber's CEO Tuesday.
Network

Lawsuit Accuses Comcast of Cutting Competitor's Wires To Put It Out of Business (arstechnica.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A tiny Internet service provider has sued Comcast, alleging that the cable giant and its hired contractors cut the smaller company's wires in order to take over its customer base. Telecom Cable LLC had "229 satisfied customers" in Weston Lakes and Corrigan, Texas when Comcast and its contractors sabotaged its network, the lawsuit filed last week in Harris County District Court said. Comcast had tried to buy Telecom Cable's Weston Lakes operations in 2013 "but refused to pay what they were worth," the complaint says. Starting in June 2015, Comcast and two contractors it hired "systematically destroyed Telecom's business by cutting its lines and running off its customers," the lawsuit says. Comcast destroyed or damaged the lines serving all Telecom Cable customers in Weston Lakes and never repaired them, the lawsuit claims. Telecom Cable owner Anthony Luna estimated the value of his business at about $1.8 million, which he is seeking to recover. He is also seeking other damages from Comcast and its contractors, including exemplary damages that under state statute could "amount to a maximum of twice the amount of economic damages, plus up to $750,000 of non-economic damages," the complaint says. CourtHouse News Service has a story about the lawsuit, and it posted a copy of the complaint.
The Courts

'Coal King' Is Suing John Oliver, Time Warner, and HBO (washingtonpost.com) 392

Reader Daetrin writes: Robert E. Murray, CEO of one of the largest coal mining companies in the US, is suing John Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner for defamation (alternative source) over a comedic report on the status of the coal industry in John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight". The report began with the decline of the coal mining industry, Trump's promises to revive it, and the plight of the workers involved, but was also highly critical of the business practices and safety record of Murray Energy Corporation and Robert Murray's leadership of the company. When the company was contacted about the piece before airing they responded with a cease and desist letter and threatened to sue. John Oliver continued with the segment anyway, saying "I didn't really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kinda forced my hand on that one."
Social Networks

Supreme Court Rules Sex Offenders Can't Be Barred From Social Media (gizmodo.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law that prevents sex offenders from posting on social media where children might be present, saying it "impermissibly restricts lawful speech." In doing so, the Supreme Court asserted what we all know to be true: Posting is essential to the survival of the republic. The court ruled that to "foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights." The court correctly noted that "one of the most important places to exchange views is cyberspace." The North Carolina law was ruled to be overly broad, barring "access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge."
The Courts

Offensive Trademarks Must Be Allowed, Rules Supreme Court (arstechnica.com) 253

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called "The Slants," will be able to trademark the name of his band. It's also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark. The court unanimously held that a law on the books holding that a trademark can't "disparage... or bring... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," violates the First Amendment. Tam headed to federal court years ago after he was unable to obtain a trademark. In 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Tam's favor, finding that the so-called "disparagement clause" of trademark law was unconstitutional.
Security

What Happens When Software Companies Are Liable For Security Vulnerabilities? (techbeacon.com) 221

mikeatTB shares an article from TechRepublic: Software engineers have largely failed at security. Even with the move toward more agile development and DevOps, vulnerabilities continue to take off... Things have been this way for decades, but the status quo might soon be rocked as software takes an increasingly starring role in an expanding range of products whose failure could result in bodily harm and even death. Anything less than such a threat might not be able to budge software engineers into taking greater security precautions. While agile and DevOps are belatedly taking on the problems of creating secure software, the original Agile Manifesto did not acknowledge the threat of vulnerabilities as a problem, but focused on "working software [as] the primary measure of progress..."

"People are doing exactly what they are being incentivized to do," says Joshua Corman, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative for the Atlantic Council and a founder of the Rugged Manifesto, a riff on the original Agile Manifesto with a skew toward security. "There is no software liability and there is no standard of care or 'building code' for software, so as a result, there are security holes in your [products] that are allowing attackers to compromise you over and over." Instead, almost every software program comes with a disclaimer to dodge liability for issues caused by the software. End-User License Agreements (EULAs) have been the primary way that software makers have escaped liability for vulnerabilities for the past three decades. Experts see that changing, however.

The article suggests incentives for security should be built into the development process -- with one security professional warning that in the future, "legal precedent will likely result in companies absorbing the risk of open source code."
Movies

Studio-Defying VidAngel Launches New Video-Filtering Platform (yahoo.com) 201

Last December VidAngel fought three Hollywood studios in court for the right to stream filtered versions of movies. Now fogez reports that "they have come up with a new tactic in their attempts to bring filtering choice into the streaming media equation. Instead of leveraging the legal loophole that landed them in court, VidAngel is now going to insert themselves as a filtering proxy for services like Netflix and Amazon." From the Hollywood Reporter: Its new $7.99 per month service piggybacks on users' streaming accounts. Customers log into the VidAngel app, link it to their other accounts and then filter out the language, nudity and violence in that content to their heart's desire... "Out of the gate we'll be supporting Netflix and Amazon and HBO through Amazon channels," says Harmon, adding that Hulu, iTunes and Vudu will follow... Harmon says it remains to be seen if the studios will fight VidAngel's new platform, but his biggest concern is how Amazon and Netflix will respond. He says his company has reached out to the streamers, and he hopes they'll raise any concerns through conversation instead of litigation... "VidAngel's philosophy is very libertarian," he says. "Let directors create what they want, and let viewers watch how they want in their own home. That kind of philosophy respects the views of both parties."
The original submission describes the conflict as a "freedom of choice versus Hollywood."
Piracy

Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Considers 'Voluntary Surrender' To the US (torrentfreak.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year a Polish court ruled that Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the defunct torrent site KickassTorrents, can be extradited to the United States. The decision came as a disappointment to the defense team, which quickly announced an appeal. Vaulin has since been released on bail and currently resides in a Warsaw apartment. His release has made it easier to communicate with his attorneys in the United States, who have started negotiations with the U.S. Government. While the extradition appeal is still ongoing, it now appears that under the right conditions Vaulin might consider traveling to the United States voluntarily, so he can "resolve" the pending charges. This is what the defense team states in a motion for a status conference (pdf), which was submitted earlier this week.
Google

EU Poised To Fine Google More Than $1 Billion in Antitrust Case (marketwatch.com) 102

Google is braced for a fine of potentially more than 1bn euro ($1.18 billion) as Brussels prepares to make the first of three antitrust decisions on the search group's practices, the first sanction by a leading competition regulator on the way it operates. From a report: The penalty, expected to be announced in the coming weeks, could exceed the record 1.1 billion euro bill slapped on Intel, in 2009 for anti-competitive behavior in the computer-chip market, the two people told The Times. The European Commission's antitrust body declined to comment to MarketWatch on the FT report, but referred to the latest steps taken in the case against Google. In July last year, the commission reiterated its conclusion that the search giant had "abused its dominant position by systematically favoring its comparison shopping service in its search result pages." Google and its parent company Alphabet were then given 10 weeks to respond to the findings. Reuters reported last month that Google had attempted to settle the dispute with the EU three times in the last six years, but the sides had failed to reach a compromise.
Software

GTA V Flooded With Negative Reviews On Steam After OpenIV Modding Tool Shuts Down (kotaku.com) 127

OpenIV, a popular modding tool used by tons of GTA V fans, is shutting down. After nearly 10 years of operation, the creators claim they have received a cease and desist from Take-Two Interactive -- the publisher of Grand Theft Auto. The news has shocked the PC Grand Theft Auto community, who use OpenIV to add thousands of mods into GTA V. Many upset modders have retaliated by flooding GTA V with negative reviews on Steam. Kotaku reports: According to a post on the official OpenIV website, the alleged cease and desist came on June 5th 2017. The supposed problem, OpenIV's creators say, is that the program allows "third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two's rights." After discussing their options, the team behind the tool says they decided it was not worth their time to fight back. "Yes, we can go to court and yet again prove that modding is fair use and our actions are legal," creator GooD-NTS wrote. "Yes, we could. But we decided not to. Going to court will take at least few months of our time and huge amount of efforts, and, at best, we'll get absolutely nothing. Spending time just to restore status quo is really unproductive, and all the money in the world can't compensate the loss of time. So, we decided to agree with their claims and we're stopping distribution of OpenIV."

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