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Government

US Ordered 'Mandatory Social Media Check' For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory (theverge.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered a "mandatory social media check" on all visa applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters. The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting." A memo sent on March 16th rescinds some of the instructions that Tillerson outlined in the previous cables, including an order that would have required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past. The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. In addition to the social media check, the most recent memo calls for consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny." Two former government officials tell Reuters that the social media order could lead to delays in processing visa applications, with one saying that such checks were previously carried out on rare occasions.
Twitter

Twitter Considers Premium Version After 11 Years As a Free Service (reuters.com) 45

Twitter is considering whether or not to build a premium version of its site for select users. It's unclear what the cost would be at this time, but it's very possible it could be in the form of a subscription. Reuters reports: Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide. Twitter is conducting a survey "to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck," which is an existing tool that helps users navigate the network, spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca said in a statement on Thursday. She went on: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people's Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals." There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users. Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like. That version could include "more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker," according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.
Advertising

YouTube Loses Major Advertisers Over Offensive Videos (rollingstone.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rolling Stone: Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and other major companies have pulled advertisements from YouTube after learning they were paired with videos promoting extremism, terrorism and other offensive topics, The New York Times reports. Among the other companies involved are pharmaceutical giant GSK, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and L'Oreal, amounting to a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Google-owned company. The boycott began last week after a Times of London investigation spurred many major European companies to pull their ads from YouTube. American companies swiftly followed, even after Google promised Tuesday to work harder to block ads on "hateful, offensive and derogatory" videos. Like AT&T, most companies are only pulling their ads from YouTube and will continue to place ads on Google's search platforms, which remain the biggest source of revenue for Google's parent company, Alphabet. Still, the tech giant offered up a slew of promises to assuage marketers and ensure them that they were fixing the problems on YouTube. Due to the massive number of videos on YouTube -- about 400 hours of video is posted each minute -- the site primarily uses an automated system to place ads. While there are some failsafes in place to keep advertisements from appearing alongside offensive content, Google's Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler wrote in a blog post that the company would hire "significant numbers" of employees to review YouTube videos and mark them as inappropriate for ads. He also said Google's latest advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will help the company review and flag large swaths of videos.
Businesses

A Lithuanian Phisher Tricked Two Big US Tech Companies Into Wiring Him $100 Million (theverge.com) 123

According to a recent indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice, a 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million. He was able to perform this feat "by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer," reports The Verge, citing court documents, "and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries." From the report: What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas' particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it's the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it. The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is "multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States," the documents read. The second company is a "multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services." Both apparently worked with the same "Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware," a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late '80s. What's more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money. Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted -- each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years. The court documents don't reveal the names of the two companies. Though, one could surely think of a few candidates that would fit the descriptions provided in the court documents.
DRM

W3C Erects DRM As Web Standard (theregister.co.uk) 211

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has formally put forward highly controversial digital rights management as a new web standard. "Dubbed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), this anti-piracy mechanism was crafted by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, and has been in development for some time," reports The Register. "The DRM is supposed to thwart copyright infringement by stopping people from ripping video and other content from encrypted high-quality streams." From the report: The latest draft was published last week and formally put forward as a proposed standard soon after. Under W3C rules, a decision over whether to officially adopt EME will depend on a poll of its members. That survey was sent out yesterday and member organizations, who pay an annual fee that varies from $2,250 for the smallest non-profits to $77,000 for larger corporations, will have until April 19 to register their opinions. If EME gets the consortium's rubber stamp of approval, it will lock down the standard for web browsers and video streamers to implement and roll out. The proposed standard is expected to succeed, especially after web founder and W3C director Sir Tim Berners-Lee personally endorsed the measure, arguing that the standard simply reflects modern realities and would allow for greater interoperability and improve online privacy. But EME still faces considerable opposition. One of its most persistent vocal opponents, Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that EME "would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity." He is referring to the most recent controversy where the W3C has tried to strike a balance between legitimate security researchers investigating vulnerabilities in digital rights management software, and hackers trying to circumvent content protection. The W3C notes that the EME specification includes sections on security and privacy, but concedes "the lack of consensus to protect security researchers remains an issue." Its proposed solution remains "establishing best practices for responsible vulnerability disclosure." It also notes that issues of accessibility were ruled to be outside the scope of the EME, although there is an entire webpage dedicated to those issues and finding solutions to them.
Television

Cord-Cutting Isn't Nearly as Significant as Cable Providers Make It Out To Be (cnbc.com) 140

From a report on CNBC: Despite legacy media's anxieties about cord-cutting, data suggest that the phenomenon isn't nearly as significant as cable providers make it out to be. In its 11th annual "Digital Democracy Survey," Deloitte found that the percentage of American households that subscribe to paid television services has remained relatively stable since 2012, even as adoption of streaming services has accelerated. In its survey of 2,131 consumers, Deloitte said two-thirds of respondents reported they have kept their TV subscriptions because they're bundled with their internet plan. Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and U.S. media and entertainment leader at Deloitte, told CNBC that bundling seems to be a huge deterrent for cord cutting.
Intel

Intel Unveils Optane SSD DC P4800X Drive That Can Act As Cache Or Storage (hothardware.com) 63

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: Intel unveiled its first SSD product that will leverage 3D Xpoint memory technology, the new Optane SSD DC P4800X. The Intel SSD DC P4800X resembles some of Intel's previous enterprise storage products, but this product is all new, from its controller to its 3D Xpoint storage media that was co-developed with Micron. The drive's sequential throughput isn't impressive versus other high-end, enterprise NVMe storage products, but the Intel Optane SSD DX P4800X shines at very low queue depths with high random 4kB IO throughput, where NAND flash-based storage products tend to falter. The drive's endurance is also exceptionally high, rated for 30 drive writes per day or 12.3 Petabytes Written. Intel provided some performance data comparing its SSD SC P3700 NAND drive to the Optane SSD DC P4800X in a few different scenarios. This test shows read IO latency with the drive under load, and not only is the P4800X's read IO latency significantly lower, but it is very consistent regardless of load. With a 70/30 mixed read write workload, the Optane SSD DC P4800X also offers between 5 and 8x better performance versus standard NVMe drives. The 375GB Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X add-in-card will be priced at $1520, which is roughly three times the cost per gigabyte of Intel's high-end SSD DC P3700. In the short term, expect Intel Optane solid state drives to command a premium. As availability ramps up, however, prices will likely come down.
Businesses

Apple's Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality (bloomberg.com) 94

Apple is beefing up its staff with acquisitions and some big hires to help design augmented reality glasses and iPhone features, according to Bloomberg. From a report: Apple is working on "digital spectacles" that could connect to an iPhone and beam content like movies and maps, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported on Monday. The Cupertino, Calif.- based company is also working on augmented reality features for the iPhone that are similar to Snapchat, Bloomberg said. To make its augmented reality push, Apple has acquired augmented reality start-ups FlyBy Media and Metaio, and hired major players from Amazon, Facebook's Oculus, Microsoft's HoloLens, and Dolby.
Books

O'Reilly Site Lists 165 Things Every Programmer Should Know (oreilly.com) 231

97 Things Every Programmer Should Know was published seven years ago by O'Reilly Media, and was described as "pearls of wisdom for programmers collected from leading practitioners." Today an anonymous reader writes: All 97 are available online for free (and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3), including an essay by "Uncle Bob" on taking personal responsibility and "Unix Tools Are Your Friend" by Athens-based professor Diomidis Spinellis, who writes that the Unix tool chest can be more useful than an IDE.

But the book's official site is also still accepting new submissions, and now points to 68 additional "edited contributions" (plus another seven "contributions in progress"), including "Be Stupid and Lazy" by Swiss-based Java programmer Mario Fusco, and "Decouple That UI" by tech trainer George Brooke.

"There is no overarching narrative," writes the site's editor Kevlin Henney (who also wrote the original book). "The collection is intended simply to contain multiple and varied perspectives on what it is that contributors to the project feel programmers should know...anything from code-focused advice to culture, from algorithm usage to agile thinking, from implementation know-how to professionalism, from style to substance..."
Youtube

YouTube To Discontinue Video Annotations Because They Never Worked On Mobile (theverge.com) 61

You know those notes found plastered on many YouTube videos, often asking for you to "CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE?" Well, they're called annotations and they're being replaced with what YouTube calls "End Screen and Cards," which are mobile-friendly tools that let content creators poll their audience, link to merchandise, recommend videos, and more. Unlike annotations, they work on mobile and are designed to be less obnoxious to viewers. The Verge reports: YouTube says it made this change primarily because annotations didn't work on mobile and most viewers found them obnoxious and unhelpful. The change takes effect on May 2nd, and existing annotations will continue to show up when using the desktop browser version of YouTube. YouTube annotations have felt increasingly outdated and out of place. The small text boxes were meant as a way to let creators link to other videos, write in little jokes, and add ancillary information to a video much like a hyperlink or footnote of sorts. But over the years, annotation use has drastically fallen off, by 70 percent, YouTube product manager Muli Salem says. In fact, a majority of viewers interact with annotations only to close them, so the boxes don't obstruct the video screen. Many users turn them off altogether. So now YouTube is investing entirely in End Screens and Cards, and making both tools easier to use and faster to implement.
Communications

Netflix Replacing Star Ratings With Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down (variety.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Variety: Get ready to say goodbye to star ratings on Netflix: The company is getting ready to replace stars with Pandora-like thumbs ups and thumbs downs in the coming weeks. Previously-given star rating will still be used to personalize the profiles of Netflix users, but the stars are disappearing from the interface altogether. Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin told journalists on Thursday during a press briefing at the company's headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., that the company had tested the new thumbs up and down ratings with hundred of thousands of members in 2016. "We are addicted to the methodology of A/B testing," Yellin said. The result was that thumbs got 200% more ratings than the traditional star-rating feature. Netflix is also introducing a new percent-match feature that shows how good of a match any given show or movie is for an individual subscriber. For example, a show that should close to perfectly fit a user's taste may get a 98% match. Shows that have less than a 50% match won't display a match-rating, however.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Is the Internet Killing Old and New Art Forms or Helping Them Grow? (nytimes.com) 110

The thing about the internet is that as it gained traction and started to become part of our lives, it caused a lot of pain -- bloodbath, many say -- to several major industries. The music industry was nearly decimated, for instance, and pennies on the dollar doesn't begin to describe what has happened to the newspapers. But things are starting to change, many observers note. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted at the New Yorker Tech Festival last year, the internet is increasingly changing the way people consume content and that has forced the industries to innovate and find new ways to cater to their audiences. But some of these industries are still struggling to figure out new models for their survival. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at The New York Times, argues that for people of the future, our time may be remembered as a period not of death, but of rejuvenation and rebirth. He writes: Part of the story is in the art itself. In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. [...] In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they're paying for everything. [...] It's difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won't just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it.
Piracy

Court Orders ISP To Hand Identities Behind 5,300 IP Addresses To Copyright Trolls (torrentfreak.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: An initiative, fronted by Danish law firm Njord and backed by known international copyright trolls Guardaley, made headlines when it began targeting the customers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget, the provider that was previously ordered to block The Pirate Bay. At the time it was unclear how many people the law firm had in its sights but the situation has become more clear following a recent legal development. Sweden's new Patent and Market Court, that was formed last year to handle specialist copyright complaints, handed down a ruling on Friday. It grants Njord and its partners the right to force ISP Telia to hand over the personal details of subscribers behind thousands of IP addresses, despite the ISP's objections. Telia says that although it places great value on its subscribers' right to privacy, complying with a court order is a legal requirement. In all, subscribers behind 5,300 Telia IP addresses will be affected, with claims that each unlawfully downloaded and shared a range of movie titles including CELL, IT, London Has Fallen, Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal and September of Shiraz. All have featured in previous Guardaley trolling cases in the United States. It's not known how many of the 5,300 IP addresses Telia will be able to match to subscribers, or whether each IP address will identify a unique subscriber, but it's safe to say that thousands of households will be affected. "There is probable cause of infringement of copyright in the films in that they were unlawfully made available to the public via file sharing networks," the Court wrote in its judgement. "The applicants' interest in having access to the information outweighs any opposing interests, including the interest of the individual [subscribers] to remain anonymous." A Telia press spokesperson told SVT: "We believe that our customers' privacy is incredibly important, but now we must comply with this court decision."
Security

Millions of Records Leaked From Huge US Corporate Database (zdnet.com) 66

Millions of records from a commercial corporate database have been leaked. ZDNet reports: The database, about 52 gigabytes in size, contains just under 33.7 million unique email addresses and other contact information from employees of thousands of companies, representing a large portion of the US corporate population. Dun & Bradstreet, a business services giant, confirmed that it owns the database, which it acquired as part of a 2015 deal to buy NetProspex for $125 million. The purchased database contains dozens of fields, some including personal information such as names, job titles and functions, work email addresses, and phone numbers. Other information includes more generic corporate and publicly sourced data, such as believed office location, the number of employees in the business unit, and other descriptions of the kind of industry the company falls into, such as advertising, legal, media and broadcasting, and telecoms.
Android

Kickstarter Campaign Aims To Add a Full Android Device To the Back of Your iPhone (macrumors.com) 158

A new Kickstarter campaign aims to expand the iPhone's functionality with its "Eye Smart iPhone Case," which features a fully functional Android device built into the case itself. The campaign was launched on March 1 and has already raised over $100,000. Mac Rumors reports: An always-on 5-inch AMOLED display is built into the case, which runs the Android 7.1 Nougat operating system. The case connects to the iPhone using its Lightning port to enable file transfers, power delivery, and more. A microSD card slot provides up to 256GB of storage for holding photos, videos, and other media, all of which is accessible using the Android file explorer. A built-in 2,800 mAh battery provides additional charge to the iPhone, and the Eye case itself supports Qi wireless charging. Two SIM card slots are included, and higher-end models support 4G LTE connectivity, so up to three phone numbers can be used with an iPhone. Android exclusive features, like native call recording, the file explorer, customization, file transfers, and Android apps are all made available to iPhone users via the Eye case. A 3.5mm headphone jack lets iPhone owners with an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 7 Plus to use wired headphones with the device, and the Eye case includes NFC, an IR blaster and receiver for controlling TVs and other devices, and a car mount. It's available for the iPhone 6 and later, and will allegedly be available for the new wave of iPhones coming in 2017 within a month of their release. The Smart iPhone Case is available for a Super early bird pledge of $95, with prices going up for 4G connectivity. The estimated retail price is between $189 and $229.
Privacy

Germany Plans To Fine Social Media Sites Over Hate Speech (reuters.com) 305

Germany plans a new law calling for social networks like Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 mln). From a report: "This (draft law) sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation on Tuesday. Failure to comply could see a social media company fined up to 50 million euros, and the company's chief representative in Germany fined up to 5 million euros. Germany already has some of the world's toughest hate speech laws covering defamation, slander, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, backed up by prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. It now aims to update these rules for the social media age.
Government

The Most Striking Thing About the WikiLeaks CIA Data Dump Is How Little Most People Cared (qz.com) 308

Last week, WikiLeaks released a trove of web pages describing sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the C.I.A to break into smartphones, computers, and IoT devices including smart TVs. Despite the initial media coverage, it appears normal people don't really care much about it, reports Quartz. An anonymous reader shares the report: There's also one other big difference between now and 2013. Snowden's NSA revelations sent shockwaves around the world. Despite WikiLeaks' best efforts at theatrics -- distributing an encrypted folder and tweeting the password "SplinterItIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterItIntoTheWinds" -- the Vault 7 leak has elicited little more than a shrug from the media and the public, even if the spooks are seriously worried. Maybe it's because we already assume the government can listen to everything.
The Media

Nick Denton Predicts 'The Good Internet' Will Rise Again (pcworld.com) 135

Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community -- even if there's only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. "There's a vitality to it and there's a model for what [media] could be," he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.

But when it comes to other social media sites, "Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Denton said. And he attempted to address America's politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld: The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. "On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media," he said. "That's a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we're full of despair over what the internet has become, it's good to remind yourself when you're falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online -- it's an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That's where the good internet will rise up again."
To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times' site.
The Almighty Buck

Oculus CTO John Carmack Is Suing ZeniMax For $22.5 Million (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The feud between Oculus and ZeniMax Media is opening up once again, this time with the CTO of Oculus, John Carmack, suing his former employer for earnings that he claims are still owed to him. The suit is largely unrelated to the $6 billion trade secrets suit which ended last month with a $500 million judgment against Oculus. Instead, Carmack is suing ZeniMax Media for $22.5 million that he says has not been paid to him for the 2009 sale of his game studio, id Software, known for such pioneering video game classics as Doom and Quake. The lawsuit reveals that ZeniMax Media paid $150 million for the game studio. The document details that Carmack was set to earn $45 million from the id acquisition. In 2011, Carmack converted half of that note into a half-million shares of ZeniMax common stock, but has yet to receive the other half of his earnings in cash or common stock from the company, despite formal requests being made. The lawsuit was reported first by Dallas News.
Television

Amazon Says It's Open To Pushing Content Through Cable Boxes (bloomberg.com) 21

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that's shaking up the entertainment industry, says it's open to pursuing deals to stream content through cable operators' set-top boxes, much like Netflix has done in the U.S. and Europe. From a report on Bloomberg: "Amazon is definitely open to those partnerships and to be fair, we haven't done as much there as Netflix have done," Alex Green, managing director of Amazon Video, said Thursday at the Cable Congress conference in Brussels. So far, Amazon has been more focused on growing its customers and building its own devices, he said. But "we do talk to all sorts of players in the cable industry." Amazon, which won its first Academy Awards last month for movies "Manchester by the Sea," and "The Salesman," is challenging pay-TV providers and video-game developers as the Seattle-based company expands beyond its online retail roots with growing media ambitions. The rise of internet-based subscription services from the likes of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Alphabet's YouTube, have stoked analyst predictions that consumers will increasingly ditch cable and kill traditional TV.

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