Businesses

The App Economy Will Be Worth $6 Trillion in Five Years (recode.net) 90

An anonymous reader shares a report: In five years, the app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion last year, according to a report released today by app measurement company App Annie. What explains the growth? More people are spending more time and -- crucially -- more money in apps. While on average people aren't downloading many more apps, App Annie expects global app usership to nearly double to 6.3 billion people in the next five years while the time spent in apps will more than double. And, it expects the average app spend -- including app-store purchases, advertising spend and, most importantly, commerce -- to increase from $379 per person to $1,008 in 2021. The 800-pound -- or $6 trillion -- gorilla in the room is mobile commerce.
Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 336

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 67

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Advertising

Home Improvement Chains Accused of False Advertising Over Lumber Dimensions (consumerist.com) 544

per unit analyzer writes: According to Consumerist, an attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit charging Home Depot (PDF) and Menards (PDF) with deceptive advertising practices by selling "lumber products that were falsely advertised and labeled as having product dimensions that were not the actual dimensions of the products sold." Now granted, this may be news to the novice DIYer, but overall most folks who are purchasing lumber at home improvement stores know that the so-called trade sizes don't match the actual dimensions of the lumber. Do retailers need to educate naive consumers about every aspect of the items they sell? (Especially industry quirks such as this...) Furthermore, as the article notes, it's hard to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged when these building materials are compatible with the construction of the purchaser's existing buildings. i.e., An "actual" 2x4 would not fit in a wall previously built with standard 2x4s -- selling the something as advertised would actually cause the purchaser more trouble in many cases.
Android

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android (venturebeat.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
  • Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
  • Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Youtube

Google Announces New Measures To Fight Extremist YouTube Videos (cnet.com) 286

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: YouTube will take new steps to combat extremist- and terrorist-related videos, parent company Google said Sunday. "While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, said in an op-ed column in the London-based Financial Times.
Here's CNET's summary of the four new measure Google is implementing:
  • Use "more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new 'content classifiers' to help us more quickly identify and remove such content."
  • Expand YouTube's Trusted Flagger program by adding 50 independent, "expert" non-governmental organizations to the 63 groups already part of it. Google will offer grants to fund the groups.
  • Take a "tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies -- for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content." Such videos will "appear behind a warning" and will not be "monetized, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements."
  • Expand YouTube's efforts in counter-radicalization. "We are working with Jigsaw to implement the 'redirect method' more broadly. ... This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining."

Australia

Movie Piracy Cost Australian Network 'Hundreds of Millions of Dollars' (theaustralian.com.au) 119

Film television piracy and illegal downloads are partly to blame for Australian broadcaster Ten Network's woes, according to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke. From a report: He said piracy had cost Ten "hundreds of millions of dollars" in potential advertising revenue because of lower ratings resulting from pirated versions of films supplied by 21st Century Fox under an onerous output deal with the Hollywood studio. He said copies of Fox's Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were stolen last year and shared illegally via a piracy website. "Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined. It is ripping off viewers from legitimate, taxpaying enterprises," Mr Burke said. "The product that Ten is buying from 21st Century Fox and is now arriving have been pirated out of sight."
Yahoo!

Ask Slashdot: Advice For a Yahoo Mail Refugee 322

New submitter ma1wrbu5tr writes: Very shortly after the announcement of Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo, two things happened that caught my attention. First, I was sent an email that basically said "these are our new Terms of Service and if you don't agree to them, you have until June 8th to close your account". Subsequently, I noticed that when working in my mailbox via the browser, I kept seeing messages in the status bar saying "uploading..." and "upload complete". I understand that Y! has started advertising heavily in the webmail app but I find these "uploads" disturbing. I've since broken out a pop client and have downloaded 15 years worth of mail and am going through to ensure there are no other online accounts tied to that address. My question to slashdotters is this: "What paid or free secure email service do you recommend as a replacement and why?" I'm on the hunt for an email service that supports encryption, has a good Privacy Policy, and doesn't have a history of breaches or allowing snooping.
The Almighty Buck

Report Reveals In-App Purchase Scams In the App Store (macrumors.com) 48

In a Medium article titled How to Make $80,000 Per Month On the Apple App Store, Johnny Lin uncovers a scamming trend in which apps advertising fake services are making thousands of dollars a month from in-app purchases. The practice works by manipulating search ads to promote dubious apps in the App Store and then preys on unsuspecting users via the in-app purchase mechanism. MacRumors reports: "I scrolled down the list in the Productivity category and saw apps from well-known companies like Dropbox, Evernote, and Microsoft," said Lin. "That was to be expected. But what's this? The #10 Top Grossing Productivity app (as of June 7th, 2017) was an app called 'Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN.' Given the terrible title of this app (inconsistent capitalization, misplaced colon, and grammatically nonsensical 'Clean & Security VPN?'), I was sure this was a bug in the rankings algorithm. So I check Sensor Tower for an estimate of the app's revenue, which showed ... $80,000 per month?? That couldn't possibly be right. Now I was really curious." To learn how this could be, Lin installed and ran the app, and was soon prompted to start a "free trial" for an "anti-virus scanner" (iOS does not need anti-virus software thanks to Apple's sandboxing rules for individual apps). Tapping on the trial offer then threw up a Touch ID authentication prompt containing the text "You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription starting Jun 9, 2017." Lin was one touch away from paying $400 a month for a non-existent service offered by a scammer. Lin dug deeper and found several other similar apps making money off the same scam, suggesting a wider disturbing trend, with scam apps regularly showing up in the App Store's top grossing lists.
United States

Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV (wsj.com) 115

Sharp has sued China's Hisense Electric, which licensed the Sharp brand for televisions sold in the U.S., accusing Hisense of putting the Sharp name on poor-quality TVs and deceptively advertising them (alternative source). From a report: The court action is the latest effort by Osaka-based Sharp to retrieve the right to use its own name when selling TVs in one of the world's largest markets. Sharp is trying to recover its position as a global maker of consumer electronics. Hisense rejected the allegations and said it was selling high-quality televisions under the Sharp name. The dispute illustrates the risks when the owner of a well-known brand name gives up control over products sold under that name.
Cellphones

No, Your Phone Didn't Ring. So Why Voice Mail From a Telemarketer? (lifehacker.com) 210

Slashdot reader midwestsilentone tipped us off to a growing problem. Lifehacker reports: New technology allows telemarketers to leave ringless voicemail messages, and it's a method that's gaining traction. While there are laws to regulate businesses when they call consumers, some groups argue that ringless voicemail shouldn't count. The New York Times reports,"ringless voicemail providers and pro-business groups...argue that these messages should not qualify as calls and, therefore, should be exempt from consumer protection laws that ban similar types of telephone marketing"... After receiving a petition from a ringless voicemail provider, the Federal Trade Commission has started to collect public comments on this issue. So what can you do about it? First, you can head here to leave your public comment and if you're getting these voicemails, you can file a complaint with the FCC here.
Presumably that only applies if you're in the U.S. But I'd be curious to hear how many Slashdot readers have experienced this.
Google

Wall Street Journal's Google Traffic Drops 44% After Pulling Out of First Click Free (bloomberg.com) 257

In February, the Wall Street Journal blocked Google users from reading free articles, resulting in a fourfold increase in the rate of visitors converting into paying customers. The tradeoff, as reported by Bloomberg, is a decrease in traffic from Google. Since the WSJ ended its support for Google's "first click free" policy, traffic from Google plummeted 44 percent. From the report: Google search results are based on an algorithm that scans the internet for free content. After the Journal's free articles went behind a paywall, Google's bot only saw the first few paragraphs and started ranking them lower, limiting the Journal's viewership. Executives at the Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., argue that Google's policy is unfairly punishing them for trying to attract more digital subscribers. They want Google to treat their articles equally in search rankings, despite being behind a paywall. The Journal's experience could have implications across the news industry, where publishers are relying more on convincing readers to pay for their articles because tech giants like Google and Facebook are vacuuming up the lion's share of online advertising. Google says its "first click free" policy is good for both consumers and publishers. People want to get the news quickly and don't want to immediately encounter a paywall. Plus, if publishers let Google users sample articles for free, there's a better chance they'll end up subscribing, Google says. The tech giant likens its policy to stores allowing people to flip through newspapers and magazines before choosing which one to buy.
Businesses

Can Twitter Survive By Becoming A User-Owned Co-Op? (salon.com) 124

What's going to happen now that Twitter's stock price has dropped from $66 a share to just $18? An anonymous reader quotes Salon: A small group of shrewd Twitter users and shareholders have come up with proposals to fundamentally restructure the way Twitter is controlled, to turn the company into a public service by removing the need to feed investors' ceaseless appetite for hitting quarterly growth benchmarks... Sonja Trauss, a Bay Area housing policy activist, and Twitter shareholder Alex Chiang proposed earlier this year a resolution for the company's recent annual shareholder vote to promote ways to get Twitter users to buy stock in the company, such as offering ways to buy shares directly through the Twitter website and mobile app. If many individual Twitter users each owned a small piece of the company, then they could participate collectively (through the annual shareholder voting process) in steering the direction of the company.

The idea makes sense from a labor standpoint. Twitter's value comes from user's tweets, which provides the backbone for digital advertising revenue. Twitter also sells this user-generated data to third parties that use it mainly for market research. This bloc of user-shareholders could theoretically overtake the control major institutional shareholders...have over the company. Because a lot of owners of a few shares of the company would have little to lose if the stock price doesn't grow or wavers, Twitter would be less beholden to meeting Wall Street's often brutal expectations.

Advertising

Google's Top Search Result For 'Target' Was A Tech Support Scam (bleepingcomputer.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Malicious ads displayed in Google search results for Target -- the US retailer -- redirected users to a tech support scam. The malvertising campaign was spotted on Friday by a US user who posted his observations to a StackExchange thread. The rogue ad appeared when users searched for the term "target," right at the top of all search results, [and] used a feature of the Google Ads service that allows ad publishers to display a URL but redirect users to another link. For example, in the rogue ad, the displayed link was "target.com," but users were redirected to "tech-supportcenter.us." Surprisingly, this got past Google's ad quality control service... The page users landed on was mimicking the style of Microsoft's real website, but was urging users to call a phone number to remove a non-existent "HARDDISK_ROOTKIT_TROJAN_HUACK.EXE" file.
The article points out the same thing happen in February when Google's top search result for Amazon was a spoof site with another tech support scam.
EU

Google Could Face a $9 Billion EU Fine For Rigging Search Results In Its Favor (independent.co.uk) 86

schwit1 quotes a report from The Independent: EU antitrust regulators aim to slap a hefty fine on Alphabet unit Google over its shopping service before the summer break in August, two people familiar with the matter said, setting the stage for two other cases involving the U.S. company. The European Commission's decision will come after a seven-year investigation into the world's most popular internet search engine was triggered by scores of complaints from both U.S. and European rivals. Fines for companies found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules can reach 10 percent of their global turnover, which in Google's case could be about $9 billion of its 2016 turnover. Apart from the fine, the Commission will tell Google to stop its alleged anti-competitive practices but it is not clear what measures it will order the company to adopt to ensure that rivals get equal treatment in internet shopping results. The company has also been charged with using its Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals and with blocking competitors in online search advertising related to its "AdSense for Search" platform. The platform allows Google to act as an intermediary for websites such as online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers. The Commission has warned of massive fines in both cases.
Businesses

VR Sports? It Can Be a Billion Dollar Business, Says Intel CEO (axios.com) 43

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told Axios on Thursday that he sees virtual reality not only changing the face of sports, but also potentially being a multi-billion-dollar business for the chip giant. "I think it can be a couple billion dollar business" he said in an interview after his appearance at Code Conference. "And the reason is this is a whole new feed... things like advertising, the ability to take that data and sell it... we're the only ones who we believe can produce this stuff."
United States

Hillary Clinton Rips 'Bankrupt' DNC Data Operation (axios.com) 524

An anonymous reader shares an article: Hillary Clinton slammed the DNC's 2016 campaign data operation Wednesday, saying she had "nothing" to work from once she won the nomination. She lamented that Donald Trump was able to walk into a well-funded and thoroughly-tested data operation, while she was forced to build hers largely from scratch. Axios conducted over two dozen interviews with experts associated with the Trump and Clinton data and advertising operations earlier this year, and while many sources agreed with this sentiment off the record, no campaign or DNC staffers used language as strong as Clinton did Wednesday to publicly to condemn the DNC's data enterprise. Further reading: "I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that's not why I lost," says Clinton.
News

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a News Source? (csmonitor.com) 275

Obfiscator writes: Journalism has long had potential to change the world. The latest elections in the United States demonstrated new dimensions of this, with the rise of "fake news" and "echo chambers," as well as a president who has few reservations in expressing his thoughts of the media. The Christian Science Monitor has been a favorite news site of mine for years, due to their objective and balanced reporting, as well as their tendency to avoid "breaking news" and provide detailed analysis a few days later. Very few stories are going to impact my world to the point where waiting a couple days to read about them will make a difference. Despite the name, the vast majority of articles have no religious context (they address this in their FAQ). CSM has recently switched to be completely behind a paywall, as well. In their words, "We hope the Monitor Daily addresses both those trends. It is pushed to where our readers are and offers this pact: We will deliver our distinctive view of the world and you support financially our ability to produce that news." Is this the next trend: moving away from advertising revenues? Will this create more balanced journalism, as there is no need to attract clicks? Or will it deepen "echo chambers?" How do Slashdotters choose their news sites?
Android

Malicious Apps Brought Ad-Clicking 'Judy' Malware To Millions Of Android Phones (fortune.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The security firm Checkpoint on Thursday uncovered dozens of Android applications that infected users' devices with malicious ad-click software. In at least one case, an app bearing the malware was available through the Google Play app store for more than a year. While the actual extent of the malicious code's spread is unknown, Checkpoint says it may have reached as many as 36.5 million users, making it potentially the most widely-spread malware yet found on Google Play... The nefarious nature of the programs went unnoticed in large part, according to Checkpoint, because its malware payload was downloaded from a non-Google server after the programs were installed. The code would then use the infected phone to click on Google ads, generating fraudulent revenue for the attacker.
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 61

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.

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