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Businesses

Belgium Denounces Loot Boxes as Gambling; Hawaiian Legislator Calls Them 'Predatory' (arstechnica.co.uk) 24

Peter Bright, writing for ArsTechnica: Belgium's Gaming Commission has ruled that loot boxes -- in-game purchases where what you receive is randomized and only known once you open the box -- are gambling. The country's minister of justice, Koen Geens, has said that he wants to see them banned Europe-wide, reports PC Gamer. Amid outcry over the use of loot boxes in Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2, the Belgian Gaming Commission decided last week to look into the issue, with Commission Director Peter Naessens specifically saying that the combination of paying money and receiving something "dependent on chance" prompted the investigation. Rather swiftly, it seems, the Commission has made its decision. In October, the US' Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rejected calls to classify loot boxes as gambling. It told Kotaku that since players receive some reward from opening the loot box -- even if it's useless or unwanted -- that it's not gambling. As such, loot box games will receive neither ESRB's "Real Gambling" nor "Simulated Gambling" labels, the former of which automatically gives a game an "Adults Only" rating. Many retailers refuse to sell A-O games, so giving every title that uses loot boxes such a rating would likely be harmful to their sales. The question of whether loot boxes are gambling may see some new scrutiny in the US. Hawaiian Democratic State Representative Chris Lee has described loot boxes as predatory behavior.
Businesses

New Uber CEO Knew of Hack for Months (wsj.com) 15

Greg Bensinger and Robert McMillan, reporting for the WSJ: While the massive data breach at Uber didn't happen under the watch of its new chief executive, more than two months elapsed before he notified affected customers and drivers of the incident (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled), people familiar with the matter said. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi learned of the breach, which Uber said happened in October 2016 and affected some 57 million accounts, about two weeks after he officially took the helm on Sept. 5, one of the people said. Mr. Khosrowshahi said he immediately ordered an investigation, which he wanted to complete before making the matter public. About three weeks ago, though, Uber disclosed the investigation and the broad outlines of the breach to SoftBank, which is considering a multibillion-dollar investment in the ride-hailing company, according to other people familiar with the matter. Uber officials, including its chief security officer, knew at the time of the breach that personal information had been accessed. Uber only informed customers and drivers on Tuesday.
Communications

Broadband Firms in UK Must Ditch 'Misleading' Speed Ads (bbc.com) 39

An anonymous reader shares a report: Broadband firms will no longer be able to advertise their fast net services based on the speeds just a few customers get, from May next year. Currently ISPs are allowed to use headline speeds that only 10% of customers will actually receive. In future, adverts must be based on what is available to at least half of customers at peak times. It follows research that suggested broadband advertising can be misleading for consumers. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) looked into consumers' understanding of broadband speed claims and found that many were confused by headline speeds that they would never actually get in their own homes. The concerns were passed on to the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) which consulted with ISPs, consumer groups and Ofcom to find a better way to advertise fast net services. Most argued that the fairest and clearest way would be to use the average speeds achieved at peak time by 50% of customers.
Canada

Justin Trudeau Is 'Very Concerned' With FCC's Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality (vice.com) 217

Justin Ling, reporting for Motherboard: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says President Donald Trump's plan to roll back net neutrality protections for the internet "does not make sense" and that he'll be looking into what he can do to defend net neutrality for the whole internet. "I am very concerned about the attacks on net neutrality," Trudeau said in Toronto, in response to a question from Motherboard about Trump's plans. "Net neutrality is something that is essential for small businesses, for consumers, and it is essential to keep the freedom associated with the internet alive." Motherboard asked specifically what Trudeau planned to do in response to the plan put forward on Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission, which could pave the way for tiered internet service and pay-for-play premium access to internet consumers. "We need to continue to defend net neutrality," Trudeau added. "And I will."
Firefox

Firefox Will Warn Users When Visiting Sites That Suffered a Data Breach (bleepingcomputer.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers are working on a notifications system for Firefox that shows a security warning to users visiting sites that have suffered data breaches. The notifications system will use data provided by Have I Been Pwned?, a website that indexes public data breaches and allows users to search and see if their details have been compromised in any of these incidents. Work on this project has only recently started. The code to show these warnings is not even in the Firefox codebase but managed separately as an add-on available (on GitHub). The alert also includes an input field. In the add-ons current version this field doesn't do anything, but we presume it's there to allow users to search and see if their data was exposed during that site's security breach. Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned's author has confirmed his official collaboration with Mozilla on this feature.
The Internet

'We Are Disappointed': Tech Companies Speak Up Against the FCC's Plan To Kill Net Neutrality (businessinsider.com) 166

An anonymous reader shares a report from Business Insider: The FCC is planning to kill net neutrality -- and some tech companies are starting to speak out. Pro-net neutrality activists, who argue the principle creates a level playing-field online, are up in arms about the plan. And some tech companies are now speaking out in support of net neutrality as well, from Facebook to Netflix. Business Insider reached out to some of the biggest tech firms in America today to ask for their reaction to the FCC's plan. Their initial responses are below, and we will continue to update this post as more come in.
Youtube

YouTube To Implement New Guidelines To Protect Minors From Disturbing Content (cnet.com) 81

YouTube will be implementing five new rules to protect minors from disturbing content. They include removing ads from inappropriate videos and blocking predatory comments from videos that feature minors. CNET reports: The new guidelines are as follows:

-Tougher application of Community Guidelines and faster enforcement through technology
-Removing ads from inappropriate videos targeting families
-Blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors
-Providing guidance for creators who make family-friendly content
-Engaging and learning from experts

These rules follow recent reports that expose fundamental flaws in YouTube algorithms and screening protocol, which fail to recognize or pull down videos that feature disturbing imagery but are aimed at children for monetization purposes. Videos featuring children doing innocuous activities like exercising are also riddled with predatory or sexual comments from viewers, something YouTube is attempting to curb with its new guidelines.

Mars

Flowing Water On Mars' Surface May Just Be Rolling Sand Instead (theverge.com) 72

Two years ago, NASA made a big splash when it announced the discovery of flowing water on the surface of Mars. Unfortunately, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey, the surface features that NASA thought were made up of liquid water may actually be flowing grains of sand instead. The Verge reports: The features in question are dark streaks that show up periodically on Martian hills, known as recurring slope lineae, or RSLs. When one of NASA's spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, studied these lines more closely, it found that the RSLs were made up of hydrated salts -- meaning they were mixed with water molecules. At the time, NASA thought that was significant evidence that flowing liquid water caused these bizarre streaks. But researchers at the USGS say these features look identical to certain types of slopes found on sand dunes here on Earth. Those slopes are caused by dry grains of sand flowing downhill, without the help of any water. It's possible the same thing is happening on Mars, too. Since liquid water is key for life here on Earth, many thought these strange lines of flowing water may help support life on the Martian surface. But now these RSLs may not be the best place to look for life anymore.
Bitcoin

We'll Never Legalize Bitcoin, Says Russian Minister (siliconangle.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: In yet another backflip worthy of the Moscow Circus, a Russian minister has said that the country will never legalize bitcoin, just seven months after another government minister said it was considering making it legal. Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov made the statement this week, saying that "bitcoin is a foreign project for using blockchain technology, the Russian law will never consider bitcoin as a legal entity in the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation." Recognizing that blockchain technology is separate to bitcoin, Nikiforov went on to say that "I think that it is quite possible to use blockchain technology and the use of various digital tokens." Those tokens may constitute a Russian-issued cryptocurrency. TASS reported that "Russia's Communication Ministry has submitted to the government the document containing technical details related to cryptocurrencies adoption."
Privacy

Uber Is Under Investigation By Multiple States Over a 2016 Data Breach (recode.net) 25

Yesterday, it was reported that Uber concealed a massive cyberattack that exposed 57 million people's data. Recode reports that at least five states -- Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Connecticut -- would investigate the matter. From the report: Meanwhile, Uber must contend with the possible threat of a new probe at the Federal Trade Commission. The agency, which acts as the U.S. government's top privacy and security watchdog, penalized Uber for its privacy and security practices just this August. But it may not have known that Uber had suffered a major security breach in 2016, even as they investigated the company at the same time for other, unrelated security missteps. For now, the agency merely said it's "closely evaluating the serious issues raised." And some affected customers are similarly taking action. On Wednesday -- hours after the breach became public -- an Uber user filed a lawsuit accusing the company of negligence and deceptive business practices. The plaintiff, Alejandro Flores, is seeking to represent a class of affected riders and drivers alike.

For one thing, 48 states maintain some version of a law that requires companies that suffer a data breach to communicate what happened to consumers. In most cases, companies must disclose a security incident if hackers steal very sensitive customer data -- such as driver's license numbers, which happened with Uber in late 2016. To that end, the attorneys general in Illinois, Connecticut and New York have said they are probing the breach at Uber -- perhaps with an eye on whether the company skirted state laws. The top prosecutors in other major states, like Pennsylvania and Florida, did not immediately respond to emails on Wednesday seeking comment. California's AG declined to comment.

Network

FCC Ignored Your Net Neutrality Comment, Unless You Made a 'Serious' Legal Argument (theverge.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments chiming in on the net neutrality debate, but from the sound of it, it's ignoring the vast majority of them. In a call with reporters yesterday discussing its plan to end net neutrality, a senior FCC official said that 7.5 million of those comments were the exact same letter, which was submitted using 45,000 fake email addresses. But even ignoring the potential spam, the commission said it didn't really care about the public's opinion on net neutrality unless it was phrased in unique legal terms. The vast majority of the 22 million comments were form letters, the official said, and unless those letters introduced new facts into the record or made serious legal arguments, they didn't have much bearing on the decision. The commission didn't care about comments that were only stating opinion. The FCC has been clear all year that it's focused on "quality" over "quantity" when it comes to comments on net neutrality. In fairness to the commission, this isn't an open vote. It's a deliberative process that weighs a lot of different factors to create policy that balances the interests of many stakeholders. But it still feels brazen hearing the commission staff repeatedly discount Americans' preference for consumer protections, simply because they aren't phrased in legal terms.
Wine

Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Greatest Successes and Weaknesses With Wine (Software)? 236

wjcofkc writes: As a distraction, I decided to get the video-editing software Filmora up and running on my Ubuntu box. After some tinkering, I was able to get it installed, only to have the first stage vaporize on launch. This got me reflecting on my many hits and misses with Wine (software) over the years. Before ditching private employment, my last job was with a software company. They were pretty open minded when I came marching in with my System76 laptop, and totally cool with me using Linux as my daily driver after quickly getting the Windows version of their software up and running without a hitch. They had me write extensive documentation on the process. It was only two or three paragraphs, but I consider that another Wine win since to that end I scored points at work. Past that, open source filled in the blanks. That was the only time I ever actually needed (arguably) for it to work. Truth be told, I mostly tinker around with it a couple times a year just to see what does and does not run. Wine has been around for quite awhile now, and while it will never be perfect, the project is not without merit. So Slashdot community, what have been your greatest successes and failures with Wine over the years?
Facebook

Facebook To Show Users Which Russian Propaganda They Followed (bloomberg.com) 263

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook will show people which Russian propaganda pages or accounts they've followed and liked on the social network, responding to a request from Congress to address manipulation and meddling during the 2016 presidential election. The tool will appear by the end of the year in Facebook's online support center, the company said in a blog post Wednesday. It will answer the user question, "How can I see if I've liked or followed a Facebook page or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency?" That's the Russian firm that created thousands of incendiary posts from fake accounts posing as U.S. citizens. People will see a list of the accounts they followed, if any, from January 2015 through August 2017. Facebook will only be showing people the names of the pages and accounts, not the content. A user will only see what they liked or followed, so if they simply saw IRA content in their news feeds, they won't be notified.
Earth

Night Being 'Lost' To Artificial Light (bbc.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: A study of pictures of Earth by night has revealed that artificial light is growing brighter and more extensive every year. Between 2012 and 2016, the planet's artificially lit outdoor area grew by more than 2 percent per year. Scientists say a "loss of night" in many countries is having negative consequences for "flora, fauna, and human well-being." A team published the findings in the journal Science Advances. It showed that changes in brightness over time varied greatly by country. Some of the world's "brightest nations," such as the US and Spain, remained the same. Most nations in South America, Africa and Asia grew brighter. Only a few countries showed a decrease in brightness, such as Yemen and Syria -- both experiencing warfare. The nocturnal satellite images -- of glowing coastlines and spider-like city networks -- look quite beautiful but artificial lighting has unintended consequences for human health and the environment.
Education

'The Death of the MBA' (axios.com) 157

An anonymous reader shares a report: U.S. graduate business schools -- once magnets for American and international students seeking a certain route to a high income -- are in an existential crisis. They are losing droves of students who are balking at sky-high tuition and, in the case of international applicants, turned off by President Trump's politics. The once-venerated MBA is going the way of the diminished law degree, pushed aside by tech education. Graduates of the top 25 or so MBA schools still command the elite Wall Street and corporate jobs they always did, but the hundreds of others are scrambling, and some schools are shutting down their programs. Survivors are often offering new touchy-feely degrees like "master of social innovation." [...] In the more than 350 programs that didn't make the top ranks, rising tuition costs and smaller returns in the form of employment and income have forced a rethink of the traditional MBA degree.
Medicine

The Feds Are Officially Cracking Down on Basement Biohackers (gizmodo.com) 206

Kristen Brown, reporting for Gizmodo: The Food and Drug Agency has issued a stern warning to anyone who might be crazy enough to undertake gene therapy in the do-it-yourself fashion. Definitely don't do this at home, a statement released on Tuesday implies. And if you do, we'll throw every law we can at you. The FDA's deterrent comes on the heels of a brazen DIY gene therapy experiment, in which a 27-year-old software engineer injected himself with an unprove gene therapy for HIV designed by three biohacker friends. The first injection was streamed live on Facebook in October, and went viral after it was covered by Gizmodo. "You can't stop it, you can't regulate these things," patient zero, Tristan Roberts, told Gizmodo at the time. Apparently the FDA begs to differ.
Businesses

Apple Only Wants To Put Its Stores Where White People Live, Investigation Reveals (theoutline.com) 478

Brian Josephs, writing for The Outline: New York's northernmost borough is the city's most diverse, has the lowest income per household, and is the only borough without an Apple Store after one opened up in Brooklyn's predominantly white neighborhood of Williamsburg last year. This trend holds true on a national scale. That means 251 of the 270 stores, or 93 percent, are located in majority-white ZIP codes. Of the 19 that are not located in majority-white ZIP codes, eight are in ZIP codes where whites are still the largest racial bloc. For context, Garden City, New York, a city with a population of around 22,000 that is 94 percent white, has an Apple Store. Lake Grove, New York, which has a population of around 11,000 and is 89 percent white, has an Apple Store. By comparison, nearly 1.5 million people live in the densely-packed Bronx, which is only 21 percent white. Bronx residents must travel either north to Ridge Hill or down to the Upper East Side to get to an Apple store. Apple told me it couldn't comment on the record about what criteria it uses to decide where new stores are built or the demographics of its stores' neighborhoods, but USC Marshall School of Business professor Ira Kalb reasoned that the company is "going after the high-end of the market, so their store location choices typically go after areas that are considered upscale."
Facebook

China's Tencent Breaks Through $500bn Stock Market Capitalisation (bbc.com) 77

An anonymous reader shares a report: The value of China's biggest social network company -- Tencent Holdings -- has overtaken that of Facebook. The company owns WeChat, an enormously popular messaging app in China, and hit gaming franchises such as League of Legends and Honour of Kings.It is the first Asian firm to surpass a market value of $500bn. Its chief executive, Ma Huateng, is now worth more than the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to Forbes. The magazine valued him at $48.3bn on Tuesday, making him the world's ninth richest man according to its ranking.
Microsoft

Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs (wsj.com) 257

Tatyana Shumsky, reporting for WSJ: Adobe's finance chief Mark Garrett says his team struggles keeping track of which jobs have been filled at the software company. The process can take days and requires finance staff to pull data from disparate systems that house financial and human-resources information into Microsoft's Excel spreadsheets. From there they can see which groups are hiring and how salary spending affects the budget. "I don't want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us," Mr. Garrett said. He is working on cutting Excel out of this process, he said. CFOs at companies including P.F. Chang's China Bistro, ABM Industries and Wintrust Financial are on a similar drive to reduce how much their finance teams use Excel for financial planning, analysis and reporting (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; an alternative source wasn't immediately available). Finance chiefs say the ubiquitous spreadsheet software that revolutionized accounting in the 1980s hasn't kept up with the demands of contemporary corporate finance units. Errors can bloom because data in Excel is separated from other systems and isn't automatically updated.
Social Networks

Facebook Still Lets Housing Advertisers Exclude Users By Race (arstechnica.com) 189

AmiMoJo writes: In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment, or credit. Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African-Americans,mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina, and Spanish speakers. All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act. Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Every single ad was approved within minutes. The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters 'interested in Islam, Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam.' It was approved after 22 minutes.

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