Open Source

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Make My Own Vaporware Real? 126

Long-time Slashdot reader renuk007 is a retired Unix/Linux systems programmer with the ultimate question: After retiring I started a second career as a teacher -- and I'm loving it. My problem: I designed a (I feel) wonderful new language compiler, but implementing it will take me another ten years if I have to do it part-time.

Linus Torvalds was able to leverage the enthusiasm of the Internet to make Linux exist, but 1990 was a more innocent time. How does it work today? Any thoughts?

Or, to put it another way, how can you build a community to bring your ideas to light? Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. How can you make your own vaporware real?
Social Networks

'An Apology for the Internet -- from the People Who Built It' (nymag.com) 179

"Those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created," argues a new article in New York Magazine titled "The Internet Apologizes". Today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being "weaponized." Even Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains," he lamented recently...

The internet's original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model. To keep the internet free -- while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history -- the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving "engagement" -- which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country... What we're left with are increasingly divided populations of resentful users, now joined in their collective outrage by Silicon Valley visionaries no longer in control of the platforms they built.

Lanier adds that "despite all the warnings, we just walked right into it and created mass behavior-modification regimes out of our digital networks." Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, is even quoted as saying that a social-validation feedback loop is "exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

The article includes quotes from Richard Stallman, arguing that data privacy isn't the problem. "The problem is that these companies are collecting data about you, period. We shouldn't let them do that. The data that is collected will be abused..." He later adds that "We need a law that requires every system to be designed in a way that achieves its basic goal with the least possible collection of data... No company is so important that its existence justifies setting up a police state."

The article proposes hypothetical solutions. "Could a subscription model reorient the internet's incentives, valuing user experience over ad-driven outrage? Could smart regulations provide greater data security? Or should we break up these new monopolies entirely in the hope that fostering more competition would give consumers more options?" Some argue that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 shields internet companies from all consequences for bad actors -- de-incentivizing the need to address them -- and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, thinks the solution is new legislation. "The government is going to have to be involved. You do it exactly the same way you regulated the cigarette industry. Technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and product designers are working to make those products more addictive. We need to rein that back."
Yahoo!

Yahoo's New Privacy Policy Allows Data-Sharing With Verizon (cnet.com) 38

"Yahoo is now part of Oath and there is a new Privacy and Terms contract..." warns long-time Slashdot reader DigitalLogic. CNET reports: Oath notes that it has the right to read your emails, instant messages, posts, photos and even look at your message attachments. And it might share that data with parent company Verizon, too... When you dig further into Oath's policy about what it might do with your words, photos, and attachments, the company clarifies that it's utilizing automated systems that help the company with security, research and providing targeted ads -- and that those automated systems should strip out personally identifying information before letting any humans look at your data. But there are no explicit guarantees on that.
The update also warns that Oath is now "linking your activity on other sites and apps with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends." For example, Oath "may analyze user content around certain interactions with financial institutions," and "leverages information financial institutions are allowed to send over email."

Oath does offer a "Privacy Controls" page which includes a "legacy" AOL link letting you opt-out of internet-based advertising that's been targeted "based on your online activities" -- but it appears to be functioning sporadically.

CNET also reports that now Yahoo users are agreeing to a class-action waiver and mutual arbitration. "What it means is if you don't like what the company does with your data, you'll have a hard time suing."
Crime

Jailed Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Sneaks Online, Threatens More 'Swats' (kansas.com) 285

An anonymous reader quotes the Wichita Eagle: Tyler Barriss -- the man charged in a swatting hoax that led to the death of an innocent Wichita man -- apparently got access to the internet from jail for at least 28 minutes [last] Friday and threatened to swat again. "How am I on the Internet if I'm in jail? Oh, because I'm an eGod, that's how," a tweet posted at 9:05 a.m. said.
Other developments in the case:
  • Another tweet from the Barriss account 19 minutes later asked who was "talking shit," warning "your ass is about to get swatted." And nine minutes later his final tweet from jail bragged, "Y'all should see how much swag I got in here." The county sheriff's office blamed an outside vendor's improper software upgrade to an inmate kiosk, arguing that 14 inmates potentially had full internet access "for less than a few hours."
  • 25-year-old Barris is still in jail facing an 11-year prison sentence, noted a Twitter user who responded to the tweets. "This will play well at sentencing when you're pretending to be remorseful and asking the judge for mercy."
  • Meanwhile, the Wichita police officer who mistakenly fired the fatal shot that killed a 28-year-old father of two will not face charges. The district attorney concluded that several of the officers closest to victim Andrew Finch thought he reached down to pull up his pants, leaving his right arm hidden from the officers, the Wichita Eagle reports. "The officer who fired the shot, along with some others, thought Finch was reaching for a gun."
  • "This shooting should not have happened," said the district attorney. "But this officer's decision was made in the context of the false call." Finch was shot 10 seconds after opening his front door, and his family's civil case against the police department is still going forward.
  • Two other gamers involved in the shooting -- including one who allegedly hired Barriss over a $1.50 bet in the game Call of Duty -- have not been charged with a crime.

Youtube

YouTube Is Littered With Mass-Produced Videos Made By Automated Bots (hackernoon.com) 99

A report via Hacker Noon sheds some light on the practice of using bots to mass-produce videos for YouTube. The YouTube channel Breaking News Today, for example, constantly generates new videos from recent news sources, and posts as often as every few minutes. You can tell the videos are bot-produced because they always start off with a cringe-worthy 80's style intro, followed by a robotic voiceover and floating low quality images. From the report: Someone has effectively created a fully automated process running 24/7 that is taking and stripping recent articles, converting them into video format, and posting it on Youtube as their own. And while doing so, they take credit for it and reap all the rewardsâS -- such as revenue and influenceâS -- âSthat come with it. Some videos, especially the ones that gain momentum and get popular, even feature a large juicy ad on the bottom, in which Google displays and shares profits with. Sure, one video with a few thousand views isn't really that significant, but when you have hundreds of videos being pumped out week after week, you can see how quickly things can add up. And while many new videos are still awaiting their first dozen views, others are in the tens of thousands. One even amassed almost 50k views in just two days. In total, the channel's videos have been viewed more than 225,000 times just in the past month, with an average of around 8,000 views per day. Did I mention that there are more than just this one channel? There's also this one, and this one, both following the same concept. There's actually many, MANY more. There are few solutions to deal with this new type of fully automated plagiarism. While you can certainly down vote the videos and report them to YouTube if the uploader is infringing on your copyright, they will likely stay online for days racking up views and revenue before any action is taken. There's also no reason why the videos couldn't be uploaded to separate channels to fly under YouTube's radar.
Businesses

Comcast Is Bundling Netflix Into Cable Packages (techcrunch.com) 45

The latest option in Comcast's Xfinity cable bundle is Netflix. The two companies announced an expansion of their partnership today, which was first established in 2016 when Comcast added Netflix to its X1 interface. TechCrunch reports: The companies said they will expand that existing relationship by bundling Netflix into the overall subscription in new and existing Xfinity packages. Netflix's subscriber growth -- the primary driver of its value as a public company -- continues to surge, and it appears that this could be another piece in its tool kit to keep that engine humming. Those cable packages already include an increasing breakout of diverse services that allow for streaming outside of the over-the-top experience, like HBO Go and ESPN, and this offers another streaming service on-the-go for users. By tethering to additional over-the-top services, Netflix has a chance to woo subscribers that might otherwise just stick with their existing service providers and bake itself directly into that experience. The bundle, which will be available to new and existing Xfinity customers, will be included in its cable TV, phone and internet plans. More information about XFINITY service available in this XFINITY review.
Chrome

Google Chrome To Boost User Privacy by Improving Cookies Handling Procedure (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Google engineers plan to improve user privacy and security by putting a short lifespan on cookies delivered via HTTP connections. Google hopes that the move will force website developers and advertisers to send cookies via HTTPS, which "provides significant confidentiality protections against [pervasive monitoring] attacks."

Sending cookies via plaintext HTTP is considered both a user privacy and security risk, as these cookies could be intercepted and even modified by an attacker. Banning the sending of cookies via HTTP is not yet an option, so Chrome engineers hope that by limiting a cookie's lifespan, they would prevent huge troves of user data from gathering inside cookies, or advertisers using the same cookie to track users across different sites.

Facebook

Nearly 1 In 10 Americans Have Deleted Their Facebook Account Over Privacy Concerns, Survey Claims (bgr.com) 172

An anonymous reader shares a report from BGR, summarizing a survey from TechPinions: With the outrage surrounding Facebook's privacy policies reaching a fever pitch over the past few weeks, there has been something of an underground movement calling for users to delete their Facebook account altogether. To this point, you may have seen the DeleteFacebook hashtag pop up on any number of social media platforms in recent weeks, including, ironically enough, on Facebook itself. While Zuckerberg last week said that the company hasn't seen a meaningful drop off in cumulative users, a new survey from Creative Strategies claims that 9% of Americans may have deleted their accounts.

The report reads in part: "Privacy matters to our panelists. Thirty-six percent said they are very concerned about it and another 41% saying they are somewhat concerned. Their behavior on Facebook has somewhat changed due to their privacy concerns. Seventeen percent deleted their Facebook app from their phone, 11% deleted from other devices, and 9% deleted their account altogether. These numbers might not worry Facebook too much, but there are less drastic steps users are taking that should be worrying as they directly impact Facebook's business model."

Firefox

Firefox 11.0 For iOS Arrives With Tracking Protection On By Default (venturebeat.com) 16

The new version of Firefox 11.0 for iOS turns on tracking protection by default, lets you reorder your tabs, and adds a handful of iPad-specific features. The latest version is currently available via Apple's App Store. VentureBeat details the new features: Tracking protection means Firefox blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you're surfing the web. It's almost like a built-in ad blocker, though it's really closer to browser add-ons like Ghostery and Privacy Badger because ads that don't track you are allowed through. The feature's blocking list, which is based on the tracking protection rules laid out by the anti-tracking startup Disconnect, is published under the General Public License and available on GitHub. The feature is great for privacy, but it also improves performance. Content loads faster for many websites, which translates into less data usage and better battery life. If tracking protection doesn't work well on a given site, just turn it off there and Firefox for iOS should remember your preference.

Tracking protection aside, iOS users can now reorder their tabs. Organizing your tabs is very straightforward: Long-press the specific tab and drag it either left or right. iPad users have gained two new features, as well. You can now share URLs by just dragging and dropping links to and from Firefox with any other iOS app. If you're in side-by-side view, just drag the link or tab into the other app. Otherwise, bring up the doc or app switcher, drag the link into the other app until it pulses, release the link, and the other app will open the link. Lastly, iPad users have gained a few more keyboard shorts, including the standard navigation keys from the desktop. There's also cursor navigation through the bookmarks and history results, an escape key in the URL bar, and easier tab tray navigation (try using the keyboard shortcut Command + Option + Tab to get to and from the tabs view).

Google

It's Surprisingly Easy To Make Government Records Public on Google Books (fastcompany.com) 11

From a report on FastCompany: While working on a recent story about hate speech spread by telephone in the '60s and '70s, I came across an interesting book that had been digitized by Google Books. Unfortunately, while it was a transcript of a Congressional hearing, and therefore should be in the public domain and not subject to copyright, it wasn't fully accessible through Google's archive. It's not surprising that Google might be cautious about making documents available, since its book search project resulted in over a decade of controversy over copyrights, with authors and publishers arguing that the search giant was exceeding its rights, and users clamoring to see the full texts of books, especially those that are in public domain.

But, as it turns out, Google provides a form where anyone can ask that a book scanned as part of Google Books be reviewed to determine if it's in the public domain. And, despite internet companies sometimes earning a mediocre-at-best reputation for responding to user inquiries about free services, I'm happy to report that Google let me know within a week after filling out the form that the book would now be available for reading and download.

Communications

Reddit Continues To Protect Racist Language In Favor of Free Speech (digitaltrends.com) 661

In a thread about Reddit's 2017 transparency report, a user asked CEO Steve Huffman whether posts containing racism or racial slurs violate Reddit's terms. Huffman revealed that said speech are permissible on the site. "On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs," Huffman clarified. "This means on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so." Digital Trends reports: It's unclear if Huffman's comments are representative of Reddit's company policy, but protection of hate speech can -- and do -- lead to online harassment and cyberbullying. A recent study from Pew revealed that as many as 40 percent of Americans have experienced some form of harassment online. And even if hate speech may still be protected content on Reddit, Huffman was quick to point out that any threat of violence is not tolerated on the site. "When users actions conflict with our own content policies, we take action," he said. This distinction is consistent with Reddit's prior policies for enforcement. "Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals," the updated terms read, noting that "context is key."
Cellphones

The Personality Traits That Put You At Risk For Smartphone Addiction (washingtonpost.com) 73

Zorro shares a report from The Washington Post: When the Trump-affiliated firm Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users, it used the "Big 5" or "Five Factor Model" personality test to target them with ads designed to influence their votes in the 2016 election. The test scores people on five traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism -- and was used in the election to predict the way a voter would respond to an advertisement. But the Big 5 can predict a lot more -- including how likely you are to even use Facebook or any other social media (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source).

That's because the way you score on the test can tell you how likely you are to become addicted to your screen. Research shows that people who score high on neuroticism, low on conscientiousness, and low on agreeableness are more likely to become addicted to social media, video games, instant messaging, or other online stimuli. Studies have also found that extraverts are more likely to become addicted to cellphone use than introverts. Some of the correlations make sense. Less agreeable people may be more apt to immerse themselves in technology because it does not require the kind of friendly interactions that real life does. Neurotic people have been shown to spend more time online because it validates their desire to belong or be part of a group. Conscientious people are less impulsive and therefore more able to control and organize their time. But then it gets complicated. Because according to a new study out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, specific combinations of those personality traits can mitigate or exaggerate one's propensity to addiction.

United States

Trump Signs Law Weakening Shield For Online Services (vice.com) 187

President Donald Trump has signed a new law aimed at curbing sex trafficking. From a report: The bill -- a mashup of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which is commonly referred to as the latter -- passed Congress in March. It makes websites liable for what users say and do on their platforms, and many advocacy groups have come out against the bill, saying that it undermines essential internet freedoms.

It could be months -- or as late as January 2019 -- before FOSTA is enacted and anyone could be charged under the law. But even in the days immediately after the bill passed in Congress, platforms started scrambling to proactively shut down forums or whole sites where sex trafficking could feasibly happen. Fringe dating websites, sex trade and advertising forums, and even portions of Craigslist were taken down in the weeks following, while companies like Google started strictly enforcing terms of service around sexual speech.
Commenting on the development, EFF said, "As we've already seen, this bill silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users."
Businesses

Tech Giants Like Amazon and Facebook Should Be Regulated, Disrupted, or Broken Up: Mozilla Foundation (venturebeat.com) 187

The Mozilla Foundation has called for the regulation of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. From a report: Though tech giants in the U.S. and companies like Alibaba and Tencent in China have "helped billions realize the benefits of the internet," the report calls for regulation of these players to mitagate monopolistic business practices that undermine "privacy, openness, and competition on the web." They box out competitors, restricting innovation in the process, Mozilla wrote today in its inaugural Internet Health Report, "As their capacity to make sense of massive amounts of data grows through advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing, their powers are likely to advance into adjacent businesses through vertical integrations into hardware, software, infrastructure, automobiles, media, insurance, and more -- unless we find a way to disrupt them or break them up." Governments should enforce anti-competitive behavior laws and rethink outdated antitrust models when implementing regulation of tech giants, the report states.
Advertising

Zuckerberg: Facebook Doesn't Use Your Mic For Ad Targeting (engadget.com) 257

During today's joint hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, CEO Mark Zuckerberg fully denied the idea that Facebook listens in on your conversations via microphones to display relevant ads. Engadget reports: Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) asked him to answer "yes or no" whether Facebook used audio from personal devices to fill out its ad data, and Zuckerberg said no. The CEO explained that users can upload videos with audio in them, but not the kind of background spying that you've probably heard people talk about. Peters: "I have heard constituents say Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purpose of ad targeting. This speaks to the lack of trust we are seeing. I understand there are technical and logistical issues for that to happen. For the record, I hear it all the time, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?"

Zuckerberg: "We do not. Senator, Let me be clear on this. You are talking about the conspiracy theory passed around that we listen to what is going on on your microphone and use that. We do not do that. We do allow people to take videos on their device and share those. Videos also have audio. We do, while you are taking a video, record that and use that to make the service better by making sure that you have audio. That is pretty clear."
Facebook

Facebook Data Collected By Quiz App Included Private Messages (nytimes.com) 30

In addition to the public profile data of up to 87 million Facebook users, political data firm Cambridge Analytica also reportedly harvested people's private messages, too (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The New York Times reports: On Monday, Facebook began informing people whose data may have been compromised by Cambridge Analytica through an app developed by the researcher Aleksandr Kogan. In its notifications, Facebook said that while the information harvested was largely limited to what was on people's public profiles, "a small number of people" also shared information from their Facebook timeline, posts and messages. Facebook did not specify how many people's messages were gathered and said it was taking as broad a view as possible when notifying people that their data may have been taken.
AI

Zuckerberg Testimony: Facebook AI Will Curb Hate Speech In 5 To 10 Years (inverse.com) 469

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: After a question from Senator John Thune (R-SD) about why the public should believe that Facebook was earnestly working towards improving privacy, Zuckerberg essentially responded by saying that things are different now. Zuckerberg said that the platform is going through a "broad philosophical shift in how we approach our responsibility as a company." "We need to now take a more proactive view at policing the ecosystem," he said. In part, Zuckerberg was talking about hate speech and the various ways his platform has been used to seed misinformation. This prompted Thune to ask what steps Facebook was taking to improve its ability to define what is and what is not hate speech.

"Hate speech is one of the hardest," Zuckerberg said. "Determining if something is hate speech is very linguistically nuanced. You need to understand what is a slur and whether something is hateful, and not just in English..." Zuckerberg said that the company is increasingly developing AI tools to flag hate speech proactively, rather than relying on reactions from users and employees to flag offensive content. But according to the CEO, because flagging hate speech is so complex, he estimates it could take five to 10 years to create adequate A.I. "Today we're just not there on that," he said. For now, Zuckerberg said, it's still on users to flag offensive content. "We have people look at it, we have policies to try and make it as not subjective as possible, but until we get it more automated there is a higher error rate than I'm happy with," he said.

Democrats

Democratic Senators Propose 'Privacy Bill of Rights' To Prevent Websites From Sharing Or Selling Sensitive Info Without Opt-In Consent (arstechnica.com) 136

Democratic Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today proposed a "privacy bill of rights" that would prevent Facebook and other websites from sharing or selling sensitive information without a customer's opt-in consent. The proposed law would protect customers' web browsing and application usage history, private messages, and any sensitive personal data such as financial and health information. Ars Technica reports: Markey teamed with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to propose the Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions (CONSENT) Act. You can read the full legislation here. "Edge providers" refers to websites and other online services that distribute content over consumer broadband networks. Facebook and Google are the dominant edge providers when it comes to advertising and the use of customer data to serve targeted ads. No current law requires edge providers to seek customers' permission before using their browsing histories to serve personalized ads. The online advertising industry uses self-regulatory mechanisms in which websites let visitors opt out of personalized advertising based on browsing history, and websites can be punished by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if they break their privacy promises.

The Markey/Blumenthal bill's stricter opt-in standard would require edge providers to "obtain opt-in consent from a customer to use, share, or sell the sensitive customer proprietary information of the customer." Edge providers would not be allowed to impose "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that require customers to consent in order to use the service. The FTC and state attorneys general would be empowered to enforce the new opt-in requirements. The bill would require edge providers to notify users about all collection, use, and sharing of their information. The bill also requires edge providers "to develop reasonable data security practices" and to notify customers about data breaches that affect them.

Google

Google Is in Talks to Buy Nokia's Airborne Broadband System: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 12

Google is in advanced talks to buy Nokia's airborne broadband system, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Google would use Nokia's system, the report claimed, to tap into new services and reach more users by offering in-flight high-speed internet. From the report: Nokia's technology could help Google offer a faster alternative to existing Wi-Fi on airplanes, said the people. Talks are advanced and an agreement may be reached soon, the people said. A final decision hasn't been made and the companies could still decide against a deal, the people said. Nokia's LTE A2G cellular-based system creates a direct link between an aircraft and the ground instead of bouncing the signal off of a satellite, enabling in-cabin high-speed internet services using Wi-Fi, according to its website.
Twitter

Twitter Says It Will Comply With Honest Ads Act To Combat Russia Social Media Meddling (theverge.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Twitter today pledged to support a proposed Senate bill that would require technology platforms that sell advertising space to disclose the source of and amount of money paid for political ads. Called the Honest Ads Act, the bipartisan bill was first introduced back in October by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). As part of its transparency efforts, Twitter says it's launched a new platform called the Ads Transparency Center, or ATC, that will "go beyond the requirements of the Honest Ads Act and eventually provide increased transparency to all advertisements on Twitter." Twitter says the platform will increase transparency for political and so-called issue ads, which target specific topics like immigration and gun control, by providing even more information on the origin of an ad that is required by the Honest Ads Act. "We have a dedicated team that is fully resourced to implementing the ATC and are committed to launching it this summer," the company states. "Twitter is moving forward on our commitment to providing transparency for online ads. We believe the Honest Ads Act provides an appropriate framework for such ads and look forward to working with bill sponsors and others to continue to refine and advance this important proposal."

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