The Courts

Let Consumers Sue Companies (nytimes.com) 70

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

Disney Will Price Streaming Service At $5 Per Month, Analyst Says (fiercecable.com) 122

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

Cord-Cutting Still Doesn't Beat the Cable Bundle (wired.com) 404

I'd like to cut the cord, writes Brian Barrett for Wired, then, the very instant I allow myself to picture what life looks like after that figurative snip, my reverie comes crashing down. From an article: Cutting the cord is absolutely right for some people. Lots of people, maybe. But it's not that cheap, and it's not that easy, and there's not much hope of improvement on either front any time soon. Not to turn this into a math experiment, but let's consider cost. Assuming you're looking for a cord replacement, not abandoning live television altogether, you're going to need a service that bundles together a handful of channels and blips them to your house over the internet. The cheapest way you can accomplish this is to pay Sling TV $20 per month, for which you get 29 channels. That sounds not so bad, and certainly less than your cable bill. But! Sling Orange limits you to a single stream. If you're in a household with others, you'll probably want Sling Blue, which offers multiple streams and 43 channels for $25 per month. But! Sling Orange and Sling Blue have different channel lineups (ESPN is on Orange, not Blue, while Orange lacks FX, Bravo and any locals). For full coverage, you can subscribe to both for $40. But! Have kids? You'll want the Kids Extra package for another $5 per month. Love ESPNU? Grab that $5 per month sports package. HBO? $15 per month, please. Presto, you're up to $65 per month. But! Don't forget the extra $5 for a cloud-based DVR. Plus the high-speed internet service that you need to keep your stream from buffering, which, by the way, it'll do anyway. That's not to pick on Sling TV, specifically. But paying $70 to quit cable feels like smoking a pack of Parliaments to quit Marlboro Lights. You run into similar situations across the board, whether it's a higher base rate, or a limited premium selection, or the absence of local programming altogether. It turns out, oddly enough, that things cost money, whether you access those things through traditional cable packages or through a modem provided to you by a traditional cable operator.
AI

Elon Musk Backs Call For A Global Ban On Killer Robots (cnn.com) 212

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Tesla boss Elon Musk is among a group of 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies who are calling on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. "Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the experts warn in an open letter released Monday...

"Unlike other potential manifestations of AI, which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability," said Ryan Gariepy, the founder of Clearpath Robotics and the first person to sign the letter. More than a dozen countries -- including the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain -- are currently developing autonomous weapons systems, according to Human Rights Watch.

Yahoo!

Alleged Yahoo Hacker Will Be Extradited To The US (tucson.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: A Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails agreed Friday to forgo his extradition hearing and go face the charges in the United States. Karim Baratov was arrested in Hamilton, Ontario, in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others, including two alleged officers of Russia's Federal Security Service. They are accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.

An extradition hearing for the 22-year-old Baratov had been scheduled for early September, but he signed documents before a Canadian judge Friday agreeing to waive it. His lawyer, Amedeo DiCarlo, said that does not amount to an admission of guilt... U.S. law enforcement officials call Baratov a "hacker-for-hire" paid by members of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, considered the successor to the KGB of the former Soviet Union.

Yahoo also believes that attack -- which breached at least 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014 -- was perpetrated by "a state-sponsored actor." The CBC reports that Baratov lives alone in a large, new house in an expensive subdivision. "His parents either bought him the house," one neighbor told the CBC, "or he's getting money somewhere else, because he doesn't seem to work all day; he just drives up and down the street."

The CBC also reports that Baratov's Facebook page links to a Russian-language site "which claims to offer a number of services, including servers for rent in Russia, protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and domain names in China."
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Pay To See Open Sourced? 468

jbrase writes: It's in the interest of the open-source community to make open-source development as profitable as possible. One potential means of making money from open source is crowdfunding, [but] proprietary vendors aren't likely to be enthusastic about using their flagship product to try out a relatively untested business model. Crowdfunding the open source release of legacy technologies of historical significance could provide a low-risk way for vendors to experiment with making money by crowdfunding: The product has already turned them a profit.

With that, I'd like to ask Slashdot readers, what would you pay to see open sourced?

Slashdot reader jonwil left a comment suggesting old games ("where the game is no longer being developed/worked on and where the engine/tech is no longer being used for anything"). But the sky's the limit here, so leave your own best answers in the comments. What would you pay to see open sourced?
Government

Microsoft Avoids Washington State Taxes, Gives Nevada Schoolkid A Surface Laptop (seattletimes.com) 72

theodp writes: The Official Microsoft Blog hopes a letter from a Nevada middle schooler advising Microsoft President Brad Smith to "keep up the good work running that company" will "inspire you like it did us." Penned as part of a math teacher's assignment to write letters to the businesses that they like, Microsoft says the letter prompted Smith to visit the Nevada school to meet 7th-grader Sky Yi in person as part of the company's effort to draw attention to the importance of math and encourage students and teachers who are passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. In an accompanying video of the surprise meeting, Smith presents Yi with a new Surface Laptop that comes with Windows 10 S, a version of the OS that has been streamlined with schools in mind. "Not bad for a little letter," the Microsoft exec says.

Speaking of Microsoft, Nevada, and education, Bing Maps coincidentally shows the school Smith visited is just a 43-minute drive from the software giant's Reno-based Americas Operations Center. According to the Seattle Times, routing sales through the Reno software-licensing office helps Microsoft minimize its tax bills (NV doesn't tax business income) to the detriment, some say, of Washington State public schools.

Microsoft's state and local taxes will drop to just $30 million for the last year (from an average of $214 milion over the previous 14 years) according to the Seattle Times. "A Microsoft spokesman said the decline in 2017 was caused by the company's deferring taxes on some income to future years and the winding down of the company's smartphone business."
Google

YouTube Music Head Says Company Pays Higher Royalties Than Spotify in US (engadget.com) 14

An anonymous reader shares a report: Making a living from streaming royalties is tough for music artists, and YouTube has had one of the worst reputations in the music industry for a while. Even Lyor Cohen, the current head of YouTube Music, knows that many are skeptical about the service's ability to pay out a legitimate rate. Cohen wrote a blog post this week to explain why he thinks that YouTube deserves another chance, and that his company is the highest paying music streaming service out there. The former road manager for Run DMC has been at YouTube for eight months now. He believes that YouTube music got to the subscription party late, which allowed companies like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music to take an early lead. He also says that ads in music videos aren't the "death of the music industry," but rather a second supplement to bring in the money. Cohen claims that YouTube's ads brought in more than a billion dollars in the past 12 months. That should help soothe the music industry itself, but what about artists? Cohen rebuts the common belief that YouTube pays less than Spotify or Pandora, saying that his service pays more than $3 per thousand streams in the US, "more than other ad supported services."
Bitcoin

Australia Joins China and Japan in Trying To Regulate Digital Currency Exchanges (cnbc.com) 63

Following moves by China and Japan to regulate digital currencies, Australia is attempting to crackdown on money laundering and terrorism financing with plans to regulate bitcoin exchanges. From a report: "The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide," said Australia's Minister for Justice Michael Keenan in a press release. The Australian government proposed a set of reforms on Thursday which will close a gap in regulation and bring digital currency exchange providers under the remit of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre. These exchanges serve as marketplaces where traders can buy and sell digital currencies, such as bitcoin, using fiat currencies, such as the dollar. The reform bill is intended to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of AUSTRAC.
Television

Netflix Plans To Spend $7 Billion On Content In 2018 (streamingobserver.com) 97

According to the Streaming Observer, Netflix plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year and spend over $7 billion on content in 2018. Previously, the company paid $6 billion in 2017 and $5 billion in 2016. From the report: While the internet freaks out about Disney ending its streaming agreement with Netflix, the company continues to forge ahead signing high-profile talent and throwing an enormous budget at its original programming. Just days after the Disney turmoil, Netflix's visionary Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated that the streaming leader plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year. As of now, Netflix currently has $15.7 billion in outstanding obligations in deals for new series and films over the next few years. With such an astronomically-large budget, media analysts are already beginning to wonder if Netflix is "rescuing" or "ruining" Hollywood by creating such a singular creator-producer-distributor model. Sarandos counters those claims, however, stating that Netflix is merely on the forefront of what's already a growing trend throughout the media industries: "I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy. Everyone is doing some version of it already. They just have to make a decision for their companies, their brands and their shareholders on how to best optimize the content. We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen."
Software

'Surkus' App Pays Users To Line Up Outside New Restaurants (chicagotribune.com) 114

A new app called Surkus allows restaurants to manufacture their ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. The app reportedly uses "an algorithmic casting agent of sorts" to hand-pick people according to age, location, style and Facebook "likes." All of this is done to create the illusion that a restaurant is busy and worthy of your hard-earned money. Chicago Tribune reports: They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their "reputation score," an identifier that influences whether they'll be "cast" again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won't be paid -- their movements are being tracked with geolocation. Welcome to the new world of "crowdcasting." Surkus raises new questions about the future of advertising and promotion. At a time when it has become commonplace for individuals to broadcast polished versions of their lives on social media, does Surkus give businesses a formidable tool to do the same, renting beautiful people and blending them with advertising in a way that makes reality nearly indiscernible? Or have marketers found a new tool that offers them a far more efficient way to link brands with potential customers, allowing individuals to turn themselves into living extensions of the share economy using a structured, mutually beneficial transaction? The answer depends on whom you ask.
Businesses

No Cash For Hate, Say Mainstream Crowdfunding Firms (reuters.com) 396

An anonymous reader shares a report: Online fund-raising sites are turning their backs on activists looking to offer financial support for James Fields, the man accused of driving his car into counter-protesters at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. GoFundMe, Kickstarter and other mainstream crowdfunding firms have policies that prohibit hate speech or abuse, the latest example of technology firms making it harder for far-right groups to organize online. Fields is accused of killing one woman and injuring 19 others on Saturday after the rally in Charlottesville turned violent. Supporters of Fields, who was denied bail at a court hearing in Virginia on Monday, have turned to the internet to raise money for his legal defense. GoFundMe, one of the two leading crowdfunding firms, said on Monday it has removed multiple fundraising campaigns for Fields, because the company prohibits the promotion of hate speech and violence.
Businesses

Netflix Co-Founder's Crazy Plan: Pay $10 a Month, Go to the Movies All You Want (bloomberg.com) 274

Mitch Lowe, a founder of Netflix, has a crazy idea. Through his new startup MoviePass, he wants to subsidize our film habit, letting us go to the theater once a day for about the price of a single ticket. From a report: Lowe, an early Netflix executive who now runs a startup called MoviePass, plans to drop the price of the company's movie ticket subscriptions on Tuesday to $9.95. The fee will let customers get in to one showing every day at any theater in the U.S. that accepts debit cards. MoviePass will pay theaters the full price of each ticket used by subscribers, excluding 3D or Imax screens. MoviePass could lose a lot of money subsidizing people's movie habits. So the company also raised cash on Tuesday by selling a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics, a small, publicly traded data firm in New York. [...] Theater operators should certainly welcome any effort to increase sales. The top four cinema operators, led by AMC Entertainment, lost $1.3 billion in market value early this month after a disappointing summer.
Businesses

Online Critics Decry Even More Wells Fargo Fraud Scandals (boingboing.net) 213

On Saturday author/blogger Cory Doctorow launched a new barrage of criticism towards Wells Fargo: It's been a whole day since we learned about another example of systematic, widespread fraud by America's largest bank Wells Fargo (ripping off small merchants with credit card fees), so it's definitely time to learn about another one: scamming mortgage borrowers out of $43/month for an unrequested and pointless "home warranty service" from American Home Shield, a billion-dollar scam-factory that considers you a customer if you throw away its junk-mail instead of ticking the "no" box and sending it back.

$43/month gets you pretty much nothing: people who tried to actually use their AHS insurance found it impossible to get them to actually do anything in exchange for this money. Here's a quick Wells Fargo fraud scorecard: stealing thousand of cars with fraudulent repos; defrauding mortgage borrowers; blackballing whistelblowers; creating 2,000,000+ fraudulent accounts, and stealing millions with fraudulent fees and penalties.

Life Pro Tip: if you don't like banks, join a credit union.
Government

FBI Says Islamic State Used eBay, PayPal To Channel Money To the US (theverge.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Islamic State allegedly used PayPal and fake eBay transactions to channel money to an operative in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The man who allegedly received the money was American citizen Mohamed Elshinawy, who was arrested last year in Maryland. The FBI claims that Elshinawy, in his early 30s, sold computer printers on eBay as a front in order to receive the payments through PayPal. The details have come to light because of a recently unsealed FBI affidavit, which alleges Elshinawy was part of a worldwide network that used such channels to fund ISIS. Elshinawy received $8,700 from ISIS, including five PayPal payments from senior ISIS official Siful Sujan through his technology company. Those funds were used to buy a laptop, a cellphone, and a VPN to communicate with IS, according to the affidavit. Sujan was killed in a drone strike in 2015. eBay told The Wall Street Journal it "has zero tolerance for criminal activities taking place on our marketplace." Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for PayPal said it "invests significant time and resources in working to prevent terrorist activity on our platform. We proactively report suspicious activities and respond quickly to lawful requests to support law enforcement agencies in their investigations."
Music

SoundCloud Saved By $170 Million Emergency Funding As CEO Steps Aside (techcrunch.com) 16

Last month, SoundCloud announced it was cutting about 40 percent of its staff in a cost-cutting move to help it compete against larger rivals like Spotify and Apple. One week after that announcement, TechCrunch published a report claiming "the layoffs only saved the company enough money to have runway 'until Q4' -- which begins in just 80 days." It now appears the company has closed the necessary funding round to keep itself afloat. TechCrunch reports: CEO Alex Ljung will step aside though remain chairman as former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor replaces him. Mike Weissman will become COO as SoundCloud co-founder and CTO Eric Wahlforss stays as chief product officer. New York investment bank Raine Group and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek have stepped in to lead the new Series F funding round of $169.5 million. SoundCloud declined to share the valuation or quantity of the new funding round. Yesterday, Axios reported the company was raising $169.5 million at a $150 million pre-money valuation. That's a steep decline in value from the $700 million it was valued at in previous funding rounds. The new Series F round supposedly gives Raine and Temasek liquidation preferences that override all previous investors, and the Series E investors are getting their preferences reduced by 40 percent. They're surely happy about that, but it's better than their investment vaporizing. Raine will get two board seats for bailing out SoundCloud, with partner and former music industry attorney Fred Davis, and the vice president who leads music investments, Joe Puthenveetil, taking those seats.
Movies

Hollywood's Bad Summer Movies Are Driving a Decline in Movie Ticket Sales (fastcompany.com) 245

An anonymous reader shares a report: While some people may point at The Emoji Movie as the root of all that is wrong with Hollywood, The Wall Street Journal reports that the problem goes much deeper than a single misfire featuring Patrick Stewart as a poop emoji. WSJ reports that movie attendance has dropped by 5%, compared with the same period in 2016, and revenues are down, too, dipping just 2.9%, thanks to higher ticket prices making up for the lack of ticket sales. On Aug. 2, AMC shares dropped 27% in one day, the WSJ reports. While films like Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Get Out fared well at the box office, they were the anomalies in a year full of box office disappointments. Instead of giving moviegoers more badass female leads and genre-bending horror films, Hollywood keeps throwing gobs of money at an unwanted fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, more Transformers movies, and putting $175 million into King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and then clutching their pearls in shock that no one wanted to see them.
Math

MIT Team's School-Bus Algorithm Could Save $5M and 1M Bus Miles (wsj.com) 104

An anonymous reader shares a report: A trio of MIT researchers recently tackled a tricky vehicle-routing problem when they set out to improve the efficiency of the Boston Public Schools bus system. Last year, more than 30,000 students rode 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million. In hopes of spending less this year, the school system offered $15,000 in prize money in a contest that challenged competitors to reduce the number of buses. The winners -- Dimitris Bertsimas, co-director of MIT's Operations Research Center and doctoral students Arthur Delarue and Sebastien Martin -- devised an algorithm that drops as many as 75 bus routes. The school system says the plan, which will eliminate some bus-driver jobs, could save up to $5 million, 20,000 pounds of carbon emissions and 1 million bus miles (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). The computerized algorithm runs in about 30 minutes and replaces a manual system that in the past has taken transportation staff several weeks to complete. "They have been doing it manually many years," Dr. Bertsimas said. "Our whole running time is in minutes. If things change, we can re-optimize." The task of plotting school-bus routes resembles the classic math exercise known as the Traveling Salesman Problem, where the goal is to find the shortest path through a series of cities, visiting each only once, before returning home.
Oracle

Oracle Fiddles With Major Database Release Cycle Numbers (theregister.co.uk) 69

An anonymous reader shares a report: Big Red has changed its database release cycle, scrapping names that see decimal points and numbers added on for an indeterminate amount of time, instead plumping for annual releases numbered by the year. So what would have been Oracle Database 12.2.0.2 will now be Oracle Database 18; 12.2.0.3 will come out a year later, and be Oracle Database 19. The approach puts Oracle only about 20 years behind Microsoft in adopting a year-based naming convention (Microsoft still uses years to number Windows Server, even though it stopped for desktop versions when it released XP). [...] Well, Big Red will surely be using the revamp as a way to boost sales of database licences -- a crucial part of its business -- which have been in decline for two years running. In fiscal 2016, Oracle reported a 12 per cent drop in annual sales of new software licences, and its most recent results for fiscal 2017 revealed a further 5 per cent drop. And, for all that Oracle has shouted about its cloudy success of late, it isn't yet a major money-maker for the biz. New software license sales make up a quarter of overall revenue, while support for that software makes up a further 45 per cent. In part, the new numbering will be a handy marketing ploy. Rather than playing with the decimal points, a release with a new whole number could be an attempt to give the impression of agility in the face of younger, fresher competitors. Meanwhile, fewer patches and releases on each system also allows Oracle to know more quickly, and more accurately, what security features each customer has. The annual numbering system is also a very simple way of telling you your system is old.
Security

Forget the Russians: Corrupt, Local Officials Are the Biggest Threat To Elections (securityledger.com) 287

chicksdaddy writes: Do you think that shadowy Russian hackers are the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections? Think again. It turns out the bad actors in U.S. elections may be a lot more "Senator Bedfellow" than "Fancy Bear," according to Bev Harris, the founder of Black Box Voting. "It's money," Harris told The Security Ledger. "There's one federal election every four years, but there are about 100,000 local elections which control hundreds of billions of dollars in contract signings." Those range from waste disposal and sanitation to transportation."There are 1,000 convictions every year for public corruption," Harris says, citing Department of Justice statistics. "Its really not something that's even rare in the United States." We just don't think that corruption is a problem, because we rarely see it manifested in the ways that most people associate with public corruption, like violence or having to pay bribes to receive promised services, Harris said. But it's still there.

How does the prevalence of public corruption touch election security? Exactly in the way you might think. "You don't know at any given time if the people handling your votes are honest or not," Harris said. "But you shouldn't have to guess. There should be a way to check." And in the decentralized, poorly monitored U.S. elections system, there often isn't. At the root of our current problem isn't (just) vulnerable equipment, it's also a shoddy "chain of custody" around votes, says Eric Hodge, the director of consulting at Cyber Scout, which is working with the Board of Elections in Kentucky and in other states to help secure elections systems. That includes where and how votes are collected, how they are moved and tabulated and then how they are handled after the fact, should citizens or officials want to review the results of an election. That lack of transparency leaves the election system vulnerable to manipulation and fraud, Harris and Hodge argue.

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