mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. 'We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,' the group said in an open letter published on its website."
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theodp writes "The weeklong Hour of Code kicks off tomorrow, with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates doing their part to address a declared nationwide CS crisis by ostensibly teaching the nation's schoolchildren how to code. But a recent NY Times Op-Ed by economist Paul Collier criticizing Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC as self-serving advocacy (echoing earlier criticism) serves as a reminder that Zuckerberg and Gates' Code.org and Hour of Code involvement is the Yin to their H-1B visa lobbying Yang. The two efforts have been inextricably linked together for Congress, if not for the public. And while Zuckerberg argues it's 'the right thing to do', Collier argues that there are also downsides to the tech giants' plans to shift more bright, young, enterprising people from the poorest countries to the richest. 'An open door for the talented would help Facebook's bottom line,' Collier concludes, 'but not the bottom billion.'"
theodp writes "Among the patents granted to Facebook this week by the USPTO is one for Inferring Household Income for Users of a Social Networking System. 'For example,' Facebook explains, 'an assumption might be made about a user that reads CNN.com and nytimes.com every day that the user is in a higher income bracket than another user that only reads TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com on the theory that a user who reads newspapers might be assumed to make more money than a user who only reads celebrity gossip blogs.' Advertisements such as those for travel packages, cars, and home mortgages, Facebook adds, 'are targeted to users based on income bracket,' which might also be inferred by 'gathering and analyzing different types of information about a user's geographic location.' Hey, what could go wrong?"
Ocean Consulting writes "CNN is reporting that over two million passwords from web service companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo have been captured via a key logging virus. The story is based on information released by security firm Trustwave. The report critiques how bad people are at making secure passwords, but does mention the use of Pony Botnet Controller."
snydeq writes "With eight qualified candidates for every 10 openings, today's talented developers have their pick of perks, career paths, and more, InfoWorld reports in its inside look at some of the startups and development firms fueling the hottest market for coding talent the tech industry has ever seen. 'Every candidate we look at these days has an offer from at least one of the following companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Square, Pinterest, or Palantir,' says Box's Sam Schillace. 'If you want to play at a high level and recruit the best engineers, every single piece matters. You need to have a good story, compensate fairly, engage directly, and have a good culture they want to come work with. You need to make some kind of human connection. You have to do all of it, and you have to do all of it pretty well. Because everyone else is doing it pretty well.'"
mrspoonsi writes "Studies suggest red-haired women tend to choose the best passwords and men with bushy beards or unkempt hair, the worst. These studies also reveal that when it comes to passwords, women prefer length and men diversity. On the internet, the most popular colour is blue, at least when it comes to passwords. If you are wondering why, it is largely because so many popular websites and services (Facebook, Twitter and Google to name but three) use the colour in their logo. That has a subtle impact on the choices people make when signing up and picking a word or phrase to form a supposedly super-secret password. The number one conclusion from looking at that data — people are lousy at picking good passwords. 'You have to remember we are all human and we all make mistakes,' says Mr Thorsheim. In this sense, he says, a good password would be a phrase or combination of characters that has little or no connection to the person picking it. All too often, Mr Thorsheim adds, people use words or numbers intimately linked to them. They use birthdays, wedding days, the names of siblings or children or pets. They use their house number, street name or pick on a favourite pop star. This bias is most noticeable when it comes to the numbers people pick when told to choose a four digit pin. Analysis of their choices suggests that people drift towards a small subset of the 10,000 available. In some cases, up to 80% of choices come from just 100 different numbers."
angry tapir writes "With the look of Google Plus and Facebook-like elements, a new social network named "Syme" feels as cozy as a well-worn shoe. But beneath the familiar veneer, it's quite different. Syme encrypts all content, such as status updates, photos and files, so that only people invited to a group can view it. Syme, which hosts the content on its Canada-based servers, says it can't read it. "The overarching goal of Syme is to make encryption accessible and easy to use for people who aren't geeks or aren't hackers or who aren't cryptography experts," co-founder Jonathan Hershon said in an interview about the service." See also Diaspora.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes, quoting USA Today "The NASDAQ has topped 4000 for the first time in 13 years, but much has changed since then. ... Tech investors in 2000 were right about the possibilities of the Internet and mobile computing. But they were dead wrong about which companies would be in the vanguard ... The recovery of the NASDAQ has been a complex tale of creative destruction, where old companies that once fueled the index have been pushed aside by new players. Back in 2000, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Intel, Oracle, and Sun accounted for 8.9%, 8.5%, 7.1%, 3.6% and 2.6%, respectively, of the value of the NASDAQ composite. Today, companies that were just starting out or didn't even exist — think Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are in the top 10, accounting for 4.7%, 2.7% and 1.5% of NASDAQ's value. Microsoft, Cisco and Intel's weight has fallen sharply. Apple, which wasn't in the top 10 in 2000, is a behemoth at 7.9%. So is the NASDAQ enjoying a long overdue catch-up with the rest of the market, or is the broad market overpriced, with the NASDAQ being pulled along for the ride? 'The reality is that the only thing that's the same from Nasdaq 4000 in 1999 and Nasdaq 4000 in 2013,' says Doug Sandler, 'is the number 4000.'"
ericgoldman writes "People often feel passionately about fonts, but government decisions shouldn't depend on what font people choose for their written submissions. In Massachusetts, a sex offender overturned the decision of a hearing officer after it was determined that (among other possible biases) the hearing officer posted to Facebook that he 'can't trust someone who drafts a letter in arial font!' and 'I might be biased. I think arial is inappropriate for most things.' This is just the latest example of how social media rants by government workers are causing problems for the workers — and the people they deal with."
theodp writes "The same cast of billionaire characters — Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Eric Schmidt — is backing FWD.us, which is lobbying Congress for more visas to 'meet our workforce needs,' as well as Code.org, which aims to popularize Computer Science education in the U.S. to address a projected CS job shortfall. In laying out the two-pronged strategy for the Senate, Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith argued that providing more kids with a STEM education — particularly CS — was 'an issue of critical importance to our country.' But with its K-8 learn-to-code program which calls for teachers to receive 25% less money if fewer than 40% of their CS students are girls, Smith's Code.org is sending the message that training too many boys isn't an acceptable solution to the nation's CS crisis. 'When 10 or more students complete the course,' explains Code.org, "you will receive a $750 DonorsChoose.org gift code. If 40% or more of your participating students are female, you'll receive an additional $250, for a total gift of $1,000 in DonorsChoose.org funding!" The $1+ million Code.org-DonorsChoose CS education partnership appears to draw inspiration from a $5 million Google-DoonorsChoose STEM education partnership which includes nebulous conditions that disqualify schools from AP STEM funding if projected participation by female students in AP STEM programs is deemed insufficient. So, are Zuckerberg, Gates, Ballmer, and Schmidt walking-the-gender-diversity-talk at their own companies? Not according to the NY Times, which just reported that women still account for only about 25% of all employees at Code.org supporters Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. By the way, while not mentioning these specific programs, CNET reports that Slashdot owner Dice supports the STEM efforts of Code.org and Donors Choose."
An anonymous reader writes "The NSA snoops traffic and has backdoors in encryption algorithms. Law enforcement agencies are operating surveillance drones domestically (not to mention traffic cameras and satellites). Commercial entities like Google, Facebook and Amazon have vast data on your internet behavior. The average Joe has sophisticated video-shooting and sharing technology in his pocket, meaning your image can be spread anywhere anytime. Your private health, financial, etc. data is protected by under-funded IT organizations which are not under your control. Is privacy even a valid consideration anymore, or is it simply obsolete? If you think you can maintain your privacy, how do you go about it?"
An anonymous reader sends this news from Al-Jazeera: "BP has been accused of hiring internet 'trolls' to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil firm hired the international PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run the BP America Facebook page during the oil disaster, which released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in what is to date the single largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The page was meant to encourage interaction with BP, but when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened. ... BP's 'astroturfing' efforts and use of 'trolls' have been reported as pursuing users' personal information, then tracking and posting IP addresses of users, contacting their employers, threatening to contact family members, and using photos of critics' family members to create false Facebook profiles, and even threatening to affect the potential outcome of individual compensation claims against BP."
theodp writes "Google takes Scroogling to new heights with its just-patented Automated Generation of Suggestions for Personalized Reactions in a Social Network, which not only data mines "e-mail systems, SMS/MMS systems, micro blogging systems, social networks or other systems" to get the buzz on your social circle, but also uses the data it collects to make like ELIZA and formulate appropriate responses for you to send as if they were your own (e.g., 'Happy Birthday, Mom!). Wouldn't Turing be so proud! From the patent: 'In a third example, a friend, David, sends Alice public or private message of a particular but regularly encountered message type (e.g., "how are you doing?" a common way to greet someone in the United States). The suggestion generation module suggest a good set of reactions to David, for example, based on the professional profile of David from the social network indicating that David has changed employers. The suggestion generation module generates a reply message such as "Hey David, I am fine, You were in ABC corp. for 3 years and you recently moved to XYZ corp., how do you feel about the difference, enjoying your new workplace?" The content of this suggestion are based on 1) prior conversations between Alice and David, 2) previous messages sent by Alice to other friends and 3) messages (sent by other connections in Alice's friend circle to David) which are either publicly or privately accessible to Alice, or some combination of these. Thus, the suggestion generation module generates messages that are personalized based upon both the sender and recipient using information that is accessible (public or private) to the sender.' Looks like Facebook may not be the only one strip-mining human society!"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Two investors are Tweeting that Instagram, had it stayed an independent company, could be worth between $5 billion and $15 billion today. That's led to talk of whether Snapchat was right to (reportedly) shoot down Facebook's bid of $3 billion for its business, considering its growth and sizable user base. Snapchat's founders evidently think they can score a better deal within the next few quarters. If they manage to sell their startup a year from now for twice as much, they'll be lauded as extraordinarily smart businessmen—perhaps smarter than the folks at Instagram who sold for a 'measly' $1 billion (and all this despite Snapchat making no revenue). But for other startups in the space, the Snapchat and Instragram stories won't do them much good. Propelled by dreams of ever-increasing millions (perhaps billions!) startup founders could end up turning down perfectly good acquisition offers in favor of continuing to bootstrap — and find their businesses eroding and imploding, as the market for their particular app or service either fades away or (more likely) ends up crowded out by competing software. The startup market is a shark-tank, and most of those who don't get out of the water as soon as possible are eaten, dreams of grandeur or no."
Dr Herbert West writes about a reported $3 billion offer from Facebook that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel turned down. "Snapchat, a rapidly growing messaging service, recently spurned an all-cash acquisition offer from Facebook for close to $3 billion or more, according to people briefed on the matter. The offer, and rebuff, came as Snapchat is being wooed by other investors and potential acquirers. Chinese e-commerce giant Tencent Holdings had offered to lead an investment that would value two-year-old Snapchat at $4 billion. Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s 23-year-old co-founder and CEO, will not likely consider an acquisition or an investment at least until early next year, the people briefed on the matter said. They said Spiegel is hoping Snapchat’s numbers – of users and messages – will grow enough by then to justify an even larger valuation, the people said."
An anonymous reader writes "'When the first NSA surveillance story broke in June,' writes Dennis Fisher at Threatpost, 'most people likely had never heard the word metadata before. Even some security and privacy experts weren't sure what the term encompassed.' The NSA and its supporters have, of course, emphasized that phone records collection is 'not surveillance.' Researchers at Stanford are now crowdsourcing data to incontrovertibly establish just how much the NSA knows. 'Phone metadata is inherently revealing,' says a study author. 'We want to rigorously prove it—for the public, for Congress, and for the courts.' If you have an Android phone and a Facebook account, you can grab the MetaPhone app on Google Play."
theodp writes "In June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blasted 'outrageous press reports' about the PRISM surveillance program, denying that Facebook was ever 'part of any program to give the U.S. or any other government direct access to our servers.' What Zuckerberg didn't mention, and what the press overlooked, is that the USPTO granted Facebook a patent in May for its Automated Writ Response System. Like the NSA-enabling systems described by the NY Times on the same day Zuckerberg cried foul, the patent covers technical methods to more efficiently share the personal data of users with law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in response to lawful government requests via APIs and secured portals installed at company-controlled locations. 'While handing over data in response to a legitimate FISA request is a legal requirement,' the Times noted, 'making it easier for the government to get the information is not, which is why Twitter could decline to do so.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft and Facebook today jointly launched a new initiative called the Internet Bug Bounty program. In short, the two companies are looking to secure the Internet stack by rewarding anyone and everyone who hacks it, and responsibly discloses vulnerabilities they find. The minimum bounty for hacking any component of the Internet is $5,000."