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Firefox

Firefox's Pocket Tries to Build a Facebook-Style Newsfeed That Respects Your Privacy (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Pocket, which lets you save articles and videos you find around the web to consume later, now has a home inside Firefox as the engine powering recommendations to 50 million people a month. By analyzing the articles and videos people save into Pocket, [Pocket founder and CEO Nate] Weiner believes the company can show people the best of the web -- in a personalized way -- without building an all-knowing, Facebook-style profile of the user.

"We're testing this really cool personalization system within Firefox where it uses your browser history to target personalized [recommendations], but none of that data actually comes back to Pocket or Mozilla," Weiner said. "It all happens on the client, inside the browser itself. There is this notion today... I feel like you saw it in the Zuckerberg hearings. It was like, 'Oh, users. They will give us their data in return for a better experience.' That's the premise, right? And yes, you could do that. But we don't feel like that is the required premise. There are ways to build these things where you don't have to trade your life profile in order to actually get a good experience."

Pocket can analyze which articles and videos from around the web are being shared as well as which ones are being read and watched. Over time, that gives the company a good understanding of which links lead to high-quality content that users of either Pocket or Firefox might enjoy.

I use Firefox, but I don't use Pocket. Are there any Slashdot readers who want to share their experiences with read-it-later services, or thoughts about what Firefox is attempting?
Security

Inside the Private Event Where Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and Other Rivals Share Security Secrets (geekwire.com) 48

News outlet GeekWire takes us inside Building 99 at Microsoft, where security professionals of the software giant, along with those of Amazon, Google, Netflix, Salesforce, Facebook (and others), companies that fiercely compete with one another, gathered earlier this week to share their learnings for the greater good. From the story: As the afternoon session ended, the organizer from Microsoft, security data wrangler Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, complimented panelist Erik Bloch, the Salesforce security products and program management director, for "really channeling the Ohana spirit," referencing the Hawaiian word for "family," which Salesforce uses to describe its internal culture of looking out for one another. It was almost enough to make a person forget the bitter rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce. Siva Kumar then gave attendees advice on finding the location of the closing reception. "You can Bing it, Google it, whatever it is," he said, as the audience laughed at the rare concession to Microsoft's longtime competitor.

It was no ordinary gathering at Microsoft, but then again, it's no ordinary time in tech. The Security Data Science Colloquium brought the competitors together to focus on one of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry. Machine learning, one of the key ingredients of artificial intelligence, is giving the companies new superpowers to identify and guard against malicious attacks on their increasingly cloud-oriented products and services. The problem is that hackers are using many of the same techniques to take those attacks to a new level. "The challenge is that security is a very asymmetric game," said Dawn Song, a UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor who attended the event. "Defenders have to defend across the board, and attackers only need to find one hole. So in general, it's easier for attackers to leverage these new techniques." That helps to explain why the competitors are teaming up.
In a statement, Erik Bloch, Director Security PM at Salesforce, said, "This is what the infosec and security industry needs more of. Our customers are shared, and so is our responsibility to protect them.
Privacy

Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative (theverge.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal.

In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

Advertising

Facebook May Ban Bad Businesses From Advertising (theverge.com) 111

Facebook will now let you file a complaint about businesses you've had a problem with if you bought something after clicking on one of their ads. If enough people complain about a business, it could lead to Facebook banning the company from running ads. The Verge reports: The new policy is rolling out globally starting today, and it's meant to help Facebook fight back against another type of advertising abuse on its platform. Facebook says it's trying to combat "bad shopping experiences," which can cost customers and make them frustrated with Facebook, too. Facebook is particularly interested in a few problem areas: shipping times, product quality, and customer service. This isn't just a matter of misleading advertising: if a company regularly provides bad service, products that don't meet buyers' expectations, or just frustrates consumers, they risk getting in trouble with the platform.

It appears that Facebook will send notifications to users to ask about their experience if it detects that they've purchased something after clicking on an ad. You'll also be able to find those companies and leave feedback on the Ads Activity page. Facebook says it will inform businesses about negative feedback and try to pinpoint problems that a large number of customers are having. If customer feedback doesn't improve after a warning, Facebook will eventually start to limit how many ads a company can run. If it continues long enough, they can be banned.

Businesses

Vietnam Lawmakers Approve Cyber Law Clamping Down on Tech Firms, Dissent (reuters.com) 46

Vietnamese legislators approved a cybersecurity law on Tuesday that tightens control of the internet and global tech companies operating in the Communist-led country, raising fears of economic harm and a further crackdown on dissent. From a report: The cyber law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, requires Facebook, Google and other global technology firms to store locally "important" personal data on users in Vietnam and open offices there. The vote in the National Assembly came a day after lawmakers delayed a decision on another controversial bill that had sparked violent protests in parts of the country on the weekend. Thousands of demonstrators in cities and provinces had denounced a plan to create new economic zones for foreign investment that has fueled anti-Chinese sentiment. Some protesters had also derided the cybersecurity bill, which experts and activists say could cause economic harm and stifle online dissent.
Bug

Bugs Allowed Hackers To Make Malware Look Like Apple Software (vice.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, hackers could hide malware alongside legitimate Apple code and sneak it past several popular third-party security products for Mac computers, according to new research. This is not a flaw in MacOS but an issue in how third-party security tools implemented Apple's APIs. A researcher from security firm Okta found that several security products for Mac -- including Little Snitch, xFence, and Facebook's OSquery -- could be tricked into believing malware was Apple code, and let it past their defenses. "I can take malicious code and make it look like it's signed by Apple," Josh Pitts, the security researcher at Okta who discovered these bugs, told Motherboard. In a blog post published Tuesday, Pitts explained that the issue lies with how the third-party security tools implemented Apple's code-signing APIs when dealing with Mac's executable files known as Universal or Fat files.
Facebook

Facebook Offers Nearly 500 Pages of Answers To Congress' Questions From Zuckerberg's Testimony (washingtonpost.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: Facebook pledged to continue refining its privacy practices and investigating its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica in nearly 500 pages of new information supplied to Congress and published Monday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) -- though the social giant sidestepped some of lawmakers' most critical queries. Much as it did during the hearing, Facebook told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee that it is reviewing all apps available on its platform that had access to large queries of data, a process that already has resulted in 200 suspensions.

Facebook did acknowledge that its consultants embedded in 2016 presidential campaigns, including President Trump's team, "did not identify any issues involving the improper use of Facebook data in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica." In another exchange, Facebook said it had provided "technical support and best practices guidance to advertisers, including Cambridge Analytica, on using Facebook's advertising tools." Facebook also pointed to new tools meant to address its privacy practices, including a feature called Clear History, which "will enable people to see the websites and apps that send us information when they use them, delete this information from their accounts, and turn off our ability to store it associated with their accounts going forward," the company said.
The social network did continue to sidestep many of the lawmakers' questions and concerns. The Washington Post provides a couple examples: "Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Del.), for example, probed whether Facebook had ever learned of any application developer 'transferring or selling user data without user consent' and in violation of Facebook's policies. In response, Facebook only committed in writing that it would 'investigate all apps that it had access to large amounts of data.'"

Facebook also didn't address Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy's concerns. He asked Facebook to detail if the Obama campaign in 2012 had violated "any of Facebook's policies, and thereby get banned from the platform." Facebook said: "Both the Obama and Romney campaigns had access to the same tools, and no campaign received any special treatment from Facebook."

You can view the nearly 500 pages of new information here.
Patents

Inventor Says Google Is Patenting His Public Domain Work (arstechnica.com) 164

Rob Riggs writes: Jarek Duda, the inventor of a compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), dedicated the invention to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on his breakthrough. Google is now trying to patent a video encoding scheme using the compression technique. The inventor is fighting Google in the European courts and has won a preliminary ruling. The fight's not over and Google is also seeking a patent with the USPTO. A Google spokesperson says Duda came up with a theoretical concept that isn't directly patentable, "while Google's lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google's engineers," reports Ars Technica. "But Duda says he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in a 2014 email exchange with Google engineers."
Television

Next Year, People Will Spend More Time Online Than They Will Watching TV. That's a First. (recode.net) 74

Rani Molla, writing for Recode: It's finally happening: Next year, people around the world will spend more time online than they do watching TV, according to new data from measurement company Zenith. In 2019, people are expected to spend an average of 170.6 minutes each day on online activities like watching videos on YouTube, sharing photos on Facebook and shopping on Amazon. They'll spend slightly less time -- 170.3 minutes -- watching TV. The global transition from TV to internet as the main entertainment medium was a long time coming, but it also happened faster than expected. Last year, Zenith predicted that TV would still be more popular in 2019 but has since revised its estimates.
Businesses

Net Neutrality Repeal Is Official (cnet.com) 332

The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, which had required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content, took effect on Monday. The rules, enacted by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2015, prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites. CNET: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called the Obama-era rules "heavy-handed" and "a mistake," and he's argued that they deterred innovation and depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks. To set things right, he says, he's taking the FCC back to a "light touch" approach to regulation, a move that Republicans and internet service providers have applauded.

But supporters of net neutrality -- such as big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as consumer groups and pioneers of the internet like World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee -- say the internet as we know it may not exist without these protections. "We need a referee on the field who can throw a flag," former FCC Chairman and Obama appointee Tom Wheeler said at MIT during a panel discussion in support of rules like those he championed. Wheeler was chairman when the rules passed three years ago.
We expect to see some protests today as the tussle to convince House representatives to reinstate the regulations continues. Some members of Congress are still fighting to overturn the ruling, so there's hope for a net neutrality return if legislators agree to it.

Further reading: The Washington Post published an interview of Pai over the weekend. In the interview, Pai remained bullish that the FTC could stop abuses. He also criticized Senate Dems and others for spreading misinformation during net neutrality debate. Over at CNET, Ajit Pai has written an op-ed, in which ... he is defending his move. Fight for the Future: The FCC repeal of net neutrality goes into effect TODAY, but Congress can still stop it and save the Internet.
United Kingdom

Digital IDs Needed To End 'Mob Rule' Online, Says UK's Security Minister (independent.co.uk) 512

Digital IDs should be brought in to end online anonymity that permits "mob rule" and lawlessness online, the security minister of United Kingdom has said. From a report: Ben Wallace said authentication used by banks could also by employed by internet firms to crack down on bullying and grooming, as he warned that people had to make a choice between "the wild west or a civilised society" online. He also took aim at the "phoniness" of Silicon Valley billionaires, and called for companies such as WhatsApp to contribute to society over the negative costs of their technology, such as end-to-end encryption. It comes after Theresa May took another step against tech giants, saying they would be ordered to clamp down on vile attacks against women on their platforms. The prime minister will target firms such as Facebook and Twitter as she makes the pitch at the G7 summit this weekend, where she will urge social media firms to treat violent misogyny with the same urgency as they do terror threats. Mr Wallace told The Times: "A lot of the bullying on social media and the grooming is because those people know you cannot identify them. It is mob rule on the internet. You shouldn't be able to hide behind anonymity."
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and the 2012 Facebook Moscow Hack 63

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: As Facebook's privacy debacle rages on, it's interesting to look back at Mark Zuckerberg's 2012 visit to the Facebook Moscow Hack (photos, video), at which Facebook provided training in how to access the data of app users' friends and awarded prizes for apps that did so.

In a 2012 video, Facebook's Simon Cross shows the Moscow crowd how they can "get a ton of other information" on Facebook users and their friends. "We now have an access token, so now let's make the same request again and see what happens," Cross explains (YouTube). "We've got a little bit more data, but now we can start doing really interesting stuff. We can get my friends. We can get some more information about one of my friends. Here's Connor, who you'll meet later. Say 'hello,' Connor. He's waving. And we can also get a ton of other information as well."

Cross, ironically, was the spokesperson Facebook later tapped in 2015 to explain to the press why giving friends' data to apps was a horrible idea that had to be curtailed lest Facebook lose its users' trust. Cross told reporters that Mark Zuckerberg said one of Facebook's new slogans was 'People First', because "if people don't feel comfortable using Facebook and specifically logging in Facebook and using Facebook in apps, we don't have a platform, we don't have developers."
Twitter

Defying Skeptics, Twitter Stock Surges 60% in 2018 (cnn.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Twitter is one of the hottest stocks on Wall Street this year -- and now the company is hoping to cash in by selling $1 billion of bonds that can eventually convert into Twitter stock... Twitter's stock is up more than 60% this year, and prior to Thursday's drop, Twitter shares had been on a 10-day winning streak. Why are investors flocking to Twitter? It looks like Twitter's strategy to embrace live video is a hit with users and advertisers. Twitter reported an actual profit for the past two quarters and user growth has accelerated.

That's why Twitter's stock has easily outperformed top rival Facebook, which is up 6% in 2018, and it's trouncing struggling Snap Inc. The parent company of Snapchat is still down 15% this year, despite a 10% surge in the past week. Twitter was also just added to the S&P 500, which proves that the little blue bird is now a blue chip American firm that is finally starting to grow up.

Privacy

Facebook Gave Some Developers Access To Users' Friends After Policy Changed (usatoday.com) 31

Facebook granted a select group of companies special access to its users' records even after the point in 2015 that the company has claimed it stopped sharing such data with app developers. USA Today reports: According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited court documents, unnamed Facebook officials and other unnamed sources, Facebook made special agreements with certain companies called "whitelists," which gave them access to extra information about a user's friends. This includes data such as phone numbers and "friend links," which measure the degree of closeness between users and their friends. These deals were made separately from the company's data-sharing agreements with device manufacturers such as Huawei, which Facebook disclosed earlier this week after a New York Times report on the arrangement. Facebook said following the WSJ report it inked deals with a small number of developers that gave them access to users' friends after the more restrictive policy went into effect.
The Almighty Buck

Internal Microsoft Poll Shows Employees Are Less Satisfied With Pay (cnbc.com) 54

According to an annual companywide survey, obtained by CNBC, Microsoft employees said they're less fairly paid in 2018 than they were in any of the past three years. When asked if "total compensation (base pay, bonus, equity) is competitive compared to similar jobs at other companies," only 61 percent said it was, down from 65 percent in 2017 and 67 percent each of the two prior years. From the report: Additionally, just 62 percent of the employees agreed that "people are rewarded according to their job performance," down from 63 percent last year and 64 percent in 2016. Those two questions received some of the lowest scores on the survey. The company said that 86 percent of Microsoft's employees participated. The results, shared by Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan in April, are a further indication of the challenge that Microsoft and other tech companies face in hiring and retaining top talent. Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, is just a few miles from Amazon's home and isn't far from the Seattle offices of Google, Facebook and a growing number of start-ups. Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said the company takes the issue "seriously," and that it will work to ensure a more balanced pay structure.
Facebook

Facebook Alerts 14M To Privacy Bug That Changed Status Composer To Public (techcrunch.com) 36

Facebook has landed itself in yet another self-inflicted privacy debacle. As many as 14 million Facebook users who thought they were posting items that only their friends or smaller groups could see may have been posting that content to the entire world, the company said Thursday. From a report: Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan wrote to TechCrunch in a statement: "We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts. We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before -- and they could still choose their audience just as they always have. We'd like to apologize for this mistake." The bug was active from May 18th to May 27th, with Facebook able start rolling out a fix on May 22nd. It happened because Facebook was building a 'featured items' option on your profile that highlights photos and other content.
Facebook

Facebook Confirms Data-Sharing Deals With Chinese Tech Firms (wsj.com) 39

Facebook confirmed this week that it struck data partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics firms, including Huawei, a telecommunications-equipment maker that U.S. officials view as a potential tool for state-sponsored spying. WSJ: The four partnerships are among the roughly 60 that Facebook struck with device manufacturers starting in 2007 so they could recreate the Facebook service on their devices, a Facebook spokeswoman said. As of Tuesday, more than half of those partnerships have been wound down, the spokeswoman added. The social-media company said it plans to wind down its data-sharing partnership with Huawei by the end of the week. It isn't clear when Facebook will end partnerships with the three other companies: Lenovo, the world's largest personal-computer maker; Oppo, a smartphone maker; and Chinese electronics conglomerate TCL.
Advertising

Washington Sues Facebook, Google For Failure To Disclose Political Ad Spending (techcrunch.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information -- such as the advertiser's address -- as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general. Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided." Specifically, "documents and books of account" must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment, and description services rendered. Bob Ferguson, Washington's attorney general, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that both Facebook and Google "failed to obtain and maintain" this information.
DRM

Flight-Sim Maker Threatens Legal Action Over Reddit Posts Discussing DRM (arstechnica.com) 175

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today's controversy begins with a Reddit thread that noted FlightSimLabs' A320 add-on installing "cmdhost.exe" files in the "system32" and "SysWOW64" folders inside the Windows directory. The strange filename and location -- which seems designed to closely match those of actual Windows system files -- made some Reddit users suspicious, especially given FlightSimLabs history of undisclosed installations. FlightSimLabs responded on Facebook last Thursday by saying that the files came from third-party e-commerce service eSellerate and were designed to "reduce the number of product activation issues people were having." This system has been acknowledged in the FlightSimLabs forums in the past, and it apparently passes all major antivirus checks.

The "controversy" over these files might well have died down after that response. But then FlightSimLabs' Simon Kelsey sent a message to the moderators of the flightsim subreddit, gently reminding them of "Reddit's obligation as a publisher... to ensure that any libelous content is taken down as soon as you become aware of it." While ostensibly welcoming "robust fair comment and opinion," the message also warns that "ANY suggestion that our current or future products pose any threat to users is absolutely false and libelous." That warning extends to the company's previous password-extractor controversy, with Kelsey writing, "ANY suggestion that any user's data was compromised during the events of February is entirely false and therefore libelous." "I would hate for lawyers to have to get involved in this, and I trust that you will take appropriate steps to ensure that no such libel is posted," Kelsey concludes. A follow-up message from Kelsey reiterated the same points and noted that FlightSimLabs has reported specific comments and demanded they be removed as libelous.

Facebook

Apple Jams Facebook's Web-Tracking Tools (bbc.com) 117

The next version of iOS and macOS "will frustrate tools used by Facebook to automatically track web users," reports BBC. At the company's developer conference, Apple's software chief Craig Federighi said, "We're shutting that down," adding that Safari would ask owners' permission before allowing the social network to monitor their activity. BBC reports: At the WWDC conference - held in San Jose, California - Mr Federighi said that Facebook keeps watch over people in ways they might not be aware of. "We've all seen these - these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields. "Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not." He then pointed to an onscreen alert that asked: "Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?" "You can decide to keep your information private."

Apple also said that MacOS Mojave would combat a technique called "fingerprinting", in which advertisers try to track users who delete their cookies. The method involves identifying computers by the fonts and plug-ins installed among other configuration details. To counter this, Apple will present web pages with less details about the computer. "As a result your Mac will look more like everyone else's Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device," Mr Federighi explained.

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