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Piracy

Kim Dotcom Can Be Extradited, Rules A New Zealand Court (reuters.com) 15

Kim Dotcom -- and Megaupload's programmers Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, as well as its advertising manager Finn Batato -- could soon be in a U.S. courtroom. A New Zealand judge just ruled they can all be extradited to the U.S. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The Auckland High Court upheld the decision by a lower court in 2015 on 13 counts, including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, although it described that decision as "flawed" in several areas. Dotcom's lawyer Ron Mansfield said in a statement the decision was "extremely disappointing" and that Dotcom would appeal to New Zealand's Court of Appeal.

U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material. High Court judge Murray Gilbert said that there was no crime for copyright in New Zealand law that would justify extradition but that the Megaupload-founder could be sent to the United States to face allegations of fraud.

"I'm no longer getting extradited for copyright," Dotcom commented on Twitter. "We won on that. I'm now getting extradited for a law that doesn't even apply.
Youtube

Disney, YouTube Cut Ties With PewDiePie, Top YouTube Submitter, Over Anti-Semitic Videos (techcrunch.com) 360

jo7hs2 writes: Disney's Maker Studios has cut ties PewDiePie, the YouTube submitter with 53 million subscribers, over anti-Semitic clips the submitter released earlier in the year. The clips, three videos published in January, have since been removed from the channel. According to TechCrunch, "They included one skit in which [Felix Kjellberg, PewDiePie's real name] paid a Sri Lanka-based group of men to hold up a sign that read 'Death to All Jews,' while another featured a clip of a man dressed as Jesus saying that 'Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.' Kjellberg used freelance job finding site Fiverr for both clips. He argued that he wasn't serious with either and instead wanted to show the things people will do for money." A spokesperson for Maker Studios, which was acquired by Disney in 2014, told the Wall Street Journal, "Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate." Writing on his Tumblr blog, Kjellberg said the purpose of the examples was "to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online." He continued, "I picked something that seemed absurd to me -- That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars. I think it's important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes."

UPDATE 2/14/17: YouTube has also cut ties with Kjellberg. A YouTube representative confirmed to Business Insider that the company has canceled its YouTube Red original show starring Kjellberg. Business Insider reports: "Kjellberg's show, 'Scare PewDiePie,' was a YouTube original accessible through the company's subscription service, YouTube Red. The show was about to premiere its second season. YouTube is also removing Kjellberg from Google's preferred advertising program, which helps the platform's most popular personalities attract bigger advertisers."
Twitter

Maybe It's Time For Jack Dorsey To Pick a Company (theoutline.com) 37

To Jack Dorsey, running two high-profile companies -- Twitter and Square -- at the same time doesn't seem like a problem. In an earlier interview with The New York Times, he said, "I can split my time and be present at both companies every single day." But despite how confidently Dorsey seems about his leadership roles at both the companies, investors and journalists keep asking him this question. And there's a reason why, both the companies are unprofitable (for now, at least), and pretty much every social media app that emerges on the face of the Earth is able to gain more users and figure out a better business plan than the decade-old Twitter. In a column on The Outline, Adrianne Jeffries writes: This question popped up again this week on Twitter's earnings call. Twitter missed its fourth quarter revenue targets. The stock is down and advertising revenue is down. User growth plateaued a year ago. Bloomberg estimated that Twitter has about 140 million daily active users, which was recently surpassed by the much-younger Snapchat. [...] Unlike Twitter, Square has real competitors, including PayPal, Intuit, and Stripe. "Twitter's got a niche where it owns that niche," said Jay Ritter, a professor at the Department of Finance at the University of Florida who specializes in IPOs. "Square, on the other hand, has competition. It is not something where it owns a niche. There are other ways to have easy electronic payments. And consequently, investors are more concerned about, is Square going to be able to get sufficient size that it then becomes profitable? Or is a competitor going to wind up dominating the market?" That's one reason why investors, and probably Dorsey himself, are still seduced by Twitter. While Twitter has seen user growth stall -- a very bad sign for a social network -- it's still able to capture a lot of mindshare, and some investors believe that that means there is still a windfall to be made. Facebook, after all, saw its stock cut in half after its IPO only to rebound and march steadily upward. At this point, it's clear that Facebook has a solid business and terrifying staying power. That's what Twitter investors want: to dominate a market, trap advertisers, and conquer the world. The possibility that maybe Twitter has no competitors because there is no money to be made in microblogging is sidelined. As Ritter said, "Just because it's a winner-take-all market doesn't mean it's a profitable winner-take-all market."
Advertising

Comcast Should Stop Claiming It Has 'Fastest Internet,' Ad Board Rules (arstechnica.com) 34

The advertising industry's self-regulation body said Comcast should stop saying in advertisements that it "delivers the fastest internet in America" and the "fastest in-home Wi-Fi." The evidence Comcast uses to substantiate those claims is not sufficient, ruled the National Advertising Review Board (NARB). Ars Technica reports: Verizon had challenged Comcast's advertising claims, leading to today's ruling. Comcast said today that it disagreed with the findings but will comply with the decision. Comcast used crowdsourced speed test data from Ookla to make its claim about Xfinity Internet speeds. "Ookla's data showed only that Xfinity consumers who took advantage of the free tests offered on the Speedtest.net website subscribed to tiers of service with higher download speeds than Verizon FiOS consumers who took advantage of the tests," today's NARB announcement said. The Ookla data's accuracy wasn't questioned, but it was judged to be "not a good fit for an overall claim that an ISP delivers 'America's fastest Internet.'" The ad review board said Comcast's "America's Fastest Internet" claims gave the impression that Comcast offers "overall Internet speed superiority in all tiers of service that it provides." The Comcast ads also give the impression that Comcast "delivers the fastest download and upload speeds," whereas the Ookla data showed that the top 10 percent of Verizon FiOS customers had higher upload speeds than the top 10 percent of Comcast customers.
Businesses

NYC Fines Airbnb Hosts For 'Illegal' Home Rentals (cnet.com) 267

In October, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law one of the nation's toughest restrictions on Airbnb, which includes hefty fines of up to $7,500 for people who rent out space in their apartments. Several month have passed and the New York Post has learned of "the first casualties of [the] newly enforceable law." The city has reportedly charged two hosts with a combined total of 17 violations, and since each violation comes with a $1,000 fine, it adds up to $17,000. From their report: Property owner Hank Freid -- who was once crowned one of NYC's "Worst Landlords" by a watchdog group in 2005 -- and real estate broker Tatiana Cames were slapped with 17 violations, at $1,000 apiece, for their allegedly illegal listings on Manhattan's Upper West Side and in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn, according to documents obtained by the Post. Freid, who manages the Marrakech Hotel, was hit with 12 violations for listing SROs in the building on several booking platforms, including Booking.com, Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire, Travelocity, and Orbitz, the citations reveal. Meanwhile, Cames -- who was served with five violations -- allegedly posted five separate listings to Airbnb advertising 320 Macon St, which records show she purchased for $2.15M in 2015. The Macon St. property was discovered to have inadequate fire alarms, sprinklers, illegal subdivisions, and a confused bunch of French tourists in a rear unit, according the procured documents. Cames appears to be making money off the vacancies in the building as she attempts to fill the space, as the same units are advertised as "for rent" on her personal website. The listings also seem to suggest that drawing illegal Airbnb-ers into BedStuy will help "diversify" the locale. If Freid and Cames don't pull their listings, they could be hit with a second set of violations, at $5,000 a pop.
The Media

A Super Bowl Koan: Does The NFL Wish It Were A Tech Company? (siliconvalley.com) 126

Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes: The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.

But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?

Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.
Businesses

Snapchat Files For a $3 Billion IPO (theverge.com) 55

Snapchat has filed for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange today, picking the ticker symbol "SNAP." The company hopes to raise $3 billion and says it has 158 million daily active users. The IPO would reportedly value the company above $20 billion. The Verge reports: The filing comes at an exciting but challenging time for Snap. The company -- originally named Snapchat -- has declared its intentions to become -- a camera company -- rather than just an app developer. And it's already found some success with Spectacles, its fun pair of video-recording sunglasses. The company says its advertising business is growing quickly. It reported $58.7 million in revenue for 2015, and grew that to $404.5 million in 2016. Along with that strong revenue growth, however, its losses also swelled. Snapchat lost $372.9 million in 2015 and $514.6 million this past year, more than its total revenue. Twitter was also struggling to generate a profit when it went public, while Facebook was not. Here's a gem from the S-1 filing. "We have incurred operating losses in the past, expect to incur operating losses in the future, and may never achieve or maintain profitability." Sounds like a great investment!
The Internet

'The Future of Advertising is Fewer, Better Ads' (recode.net) 244

For more than a decade, the online advertising world has been dominated by "display ads," served up to consumers alongside web content, search results or social media posts. But they're not the only game in town, one digital ad exec says. From a report: "I think the advertising world going forward is going to be filled with fewer, better ads," Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer said on the latest episode of Recode Media. "The display advertising market is going to crater. By giving away stuff for free for so long, we've created an ad economy that is bigger than it should be," he added. Schafer says there's a untapped value in "nonstandard" ads, meaning branded content and other forms of advertising on platforms such as Snapchat, Musical.ly, WeHeartIt and Imgur.
Advertising

Google Bans 200 Publishers From Its Ad Network (recode.net) 161

Since it passed a new policy against fake news, Google has banned 200 publishers from its AdSense network, an ad placement service that automatically serves text and display ads on participating sites based on its audience. "The ban was part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites that mislead users with their content," reports Recode. From the report: Not all 200 publishers were swept up as part of the effort to root out fake news sites. Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organizations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google's 2016 "bad ads" report, normally released at the beginning of each year. So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of ".co" domains by appearing similar to legitimate news sites that would normally end in ".com." Google declined to provide a listing of the banned sites. Separately, the annual report on violations of advertising policy also included data on ads removed by Google. The company reported that in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015. Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behavior and improvements in technology to detect offending ads. Also among those the removed ads were what Google calls "tabloid cloakers." These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines, but when the user clicks, an ad for a product such as a weight loss supplement pops up. Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.
Privacy

Viruses, Spyware Found in 'Alarming' Number of Android VPN Apps (abc.net.au) 52

When the Federal Court blocked access to file-sharing websites like The Pirate Bay last December, VPN (Virtual Private Network) providers reported a surge in subscription rates. Australian company Vanished VPN said its subscription rates had doubled in the past six months and VPN Unlimited said it had seen a 12.5 percent monthly jump since the court's decision. People were using VPN services to access the blocked sites because they masked their location -- allowing users to get around any website blocks or restrictions. But if you're one of those people, you might want to take a closer look at the service you're using -- especially if you've got an Android device. From a report: A team from CSIRO's Data 61, University of NSW and UC Berkley in the US found a whole bunch of Android VPN apps contain viruses, spyware and other adware. Researchers analyzed the apps available for Android to look for nasties like trojans, spyware and adware -- giving each an "anti-virus rank (AV)" based on what they found. The lower the rank, the better. They found of the 283 apps they analyzed, 38 percent contained malware or malvertising (malicious advertising containing viruses).
AI

Google Is Partnering With Raspberry Pi To Create AI (zdnet.com) 57

Google is planning to bring artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to the diminutive Raspberry Pi this year. The Raspberry Pi Foundation said in a statement, "Google is going to arrive in style in 2017. The tech titan has exciting plans for the maker community." ZDNet reports: The advertising-to-cloud-computing giant intends to make a range of smart tools available this year, according to the Foundation. "Google's range of AI and machine learning technology could enable makers to build even more powerful projects," it said. Google has developed a huge range of tools for machine learning, IoT, wearables, robotics, and home automation, and it wants Raspberry Pi fans to fill out a survey that will help it to understand what tools to provide. The survey mentions face- and emotion-recognition and speech-to-text translation, as well as natural language processing and sentiment analysis. "The tech giant also provides powerful technology for navigation, bots, and predictive analytics. The survey will help them get a feel for the Raspberry Pi community, but it'll also help us get the kinds of services we need," said the Foundation.
Google

Google Pressured 90,000 Android Developers Over Insecure Apps (pcworld.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld: Over the past two years, Google has pressured developers to patch security issues in more than 275,000 Android apps hosted on its official app store. In many cases this was done under the threat of blocking future updates to the insecure apps...

In the early days of the App Security Improvement program, developers only received notifications, but were under no pressure to do anything. That changed in 2015 when Google expanded the types of issues it scanned for and also started enforcing deadlines for fixing many of them... Google added checks for six new vulnerabilities in 2015, all of them with a patching deadline, and 17 in 2016, 12 of which had a time limit for fixes. These issues ranged from security flaws in third-party libraries, development frameworks and advertising SDKs to insecure implementations of Android Java classes and interfaces.

100,000 applications had been patched by April of 2016, but that number tripled over the next nine months, with 90,000 developers fixing flaws in over 275,000 apps.
Cellphones

FTC Dismantles Two Huge Robocall Organizations (onthewire.io) 121

Billions of robocalls came from two groups selling extended auto warranties, SEO services, and home security systems over the last seven years -- many to numbers on the "Do Not Call" list -- but this week the Federal Trade Commission took action. Trailrunner7 shares this report from OnTheWire: Continuing its campaign against phone fraud operations, the FTC has dismantled two major robocall organizations... They and many of their co-defendants have agreed to court-ordered bans on robocall activities and financial settlements... The FTC and the FCC both have been cracking down on illegal robocall operations recently. The FCC has formed a robocall strike force with the help of carriers and also has signed an agreement to cooperate with Canadian authorities to address the problem.
"The law is clear about robocalls," says one FTC executive. "If a telemarketer doesn't have consumers' written permission, it's illegal to make these calls."
Businesses

Uber Will Pay $20 Million For Exaggerating Drivers' Earnings (engadget.com) 79

Uber is paying $20 million to settle allegations that it duped people into driving for its ride-hailing service with false promises about how much they would earn and how much they would have to pay to finance a car. From a report: The FTC claimed that Uber was advertising an annual median income of over $90,000 per year for uberX drivers in New York and more than $74,000 for uberX drivers in San Francisco. But, as the commission found out, less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities actually make that much. The complaint also alleges that Uber was inflating the hourly earnings on job boards like Craigslist. New drivers who financed a new car through Uber's Vehicle Solutions Program found out the company's claims were too good to be true as well. Although Uber told new drivers they would be able to lease a new car for around $119 per week, the actual lease rates never dipped below $200 from late 2013 to April 2015. And, despite its promise of delivering "the best financing options available," it turns out that Uber's rates were actually worse than consumers with similar credit scores could have gotten elsewhere. Adding insult to overpriced injury, Uber tacked on mileage limits to lease agreements that were advertised with unlimited mileage.
China

Viral Chinese Selfie App Meitu, Valued at Over $5 Billion, Phones Home With Personal Data (theregister.co.uk) 81

The Meitu selfie horrorshow app going viral through Western audiences is a privacy nightmare, researchers say. The app, which has been featured on several popular outlets including the NYTimes, USA Today, and NYMag, harvests information about the devices on which it runs, includes invasive advertising tracking features and is just badly coded. From a report: But worst of all, the free app appears to be phoning some to share personal data with its makers. Meitu, a Chinese production, includes in its code up to three checks to determine if an iPhone handset is jailbroken, according to respected forensics man Jonathan Zdziarski, a function to grab mobile provider information, and various analytics capabilities. Zdziarski says the app also appears to build a unique device profile based in part on a handset's MAC address. "Meitu is a throw-together of multiple analytics and marketing/ad tracking packages, with something cute to get people to use it," Zdziarski says. Unique phone IMEI numbers are shipped to dozens of Chinese servers, malware researcher FourOctets found. The app, which was valued at over $5 billion last year due its popularity, seeks access to device and app history; accurate location; phone status; USB, photos, and files storage read and write; camera; Wifi connections; device ID & call information; full network access, run at startup, and prevent device from sleeping on Android phones.
Advertising

Drone Maker Lily Robotics Faked Promotional Video, Gets Sued For False Advertising and Misleading Business Practices (theregister.co.uk) 39

Dotnaught quotes a report from The Register: Lily Robotics says its decision on Thursday to shut down and return pre-order payments for a never-delivered drone, which came on the same day that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon charged the company with false advertising and misleading business practices, was purely coincidental. According to a source familiar with the complaint filed against the company, Lily Robotics has known about the DA's investigation for several months. On the strength of a promotional video on YouTube in May 2015, embedded below, Lily Robotics raised more than $34 million in pre-order sales over the course of that year for a drone called Lily Camera. The flying gadget, when built, would be capable of being launched with a throw, following people, and recording them. But after pushing the delivery date back multiple times, Lily Robotics has yet to ship a single drone to its 60,000 prospective customers, according to the lawsuit filed against the company. In theory, Lily Robotics could face a fine of more than a hundred million dollars, depending upon the outcome of a trial, if it comes to that. The company faces potential fines for at least two business code violations subject to a civil penalty of $2,500 per violation, and there are some 60,000 individuals affected. In practice, however, such fines are usually orders of magnitude less, particularly if both sides agree on a settlement. The complaint against Lily, obtained by The Register, alleges that the company knowingly misled customers by creating a promotional video that purported to show video footage captured with a Lily drone prototype. "In fact, none of the video in the Promotional Video was shot by a Lily Camera," the complaint says. "Most notably, the POV footage used in the promotional video was filmed using a professional camera drone called the DJI Inspire." Among the Lily Camera prototypes present at the video shoot, the complaint says, the ones that could actually record video were able to do so because they had Go-Pro cameras mounted on them.
Facebook

Instagram Stories Hits 150M Active Users, Adds Advertising To Instagram Stories (techcrunch.com) 31

An anonymous reader writes: Instagram Stories now has as many users as the last number announced by Snapchat, the app Instagram copied. And it's swiftly moving to monetize that massive audience. Along with the new 150 million daily user stat, Instagram today announced the launch of ads mixed into Stories. The unclickable 5-second photo and 15-second video ads appear between different people's stories and can be easily skipped. Instagram will also provide business accounts with analytics on the reach, impressions, replies and exits of their Stories.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Enhance User Privacy Controls In Upcoming Windows 10 Update (hothardware.com) 183

MojoKid writes: When Microsoft first launched Windows 10, it was generally well-received but also came saddled with a number of privacy concerns. It has taken quite a while for Microsoft to respond to these concerns in a meaningful way, but the company is finally proving that it's taking things seriously by detailing some enhanced privacy features coming to a future Windows 10 build. Microsoft is launching what it calls a (web-based) privacy dashboard, which lets you configure anything and everything about information that might be sent to back to the mothership. You can turn all tracking off, or pick and choose, if certain criteria don't concern you too much, like location or health activity, for example. Also, for fresh installs, you'll be given more specific privacy options so that you can feel confident from the get-go about the information you're sending Redmond's way. If you do decide to send any information Microsoft's way, the company promises that it won't use your information for the sake of targeted advertising.
Businesses

Supreme Court Will Not Examine Tech Industry Legal Shield (reuters.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a lower court's decision that an online advertising site accused by three young women of facilitating child sex trafficking was protected by a federal law that has shielded website operators from liability for content posted by others. The refusal by the justices to take up the women's appeal in the case involving the advertising website Backpage.com marked a victory for the tech industry, which could have faced far-reaching consequences had the Supreme Court decided to limit the scope of the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress in 1996 to protect free speech on the internet.
Toys

Ask Slashdot: What's The Most Useful 'Nerd Watch' Today? 232

He's worn the same watch for two decades, but now Slashdot reader students wants a new one. For about 20 years I've used Casio Databank 150 watches. They were handy because they kept track of my schedule and the current time. They were very cheap. They required very little maintenance, since the battery lasts more than a year and the bands last even longer. Since they were waterproof, I don't even have to take them off (or remember where I put them!) They were completely immune to malicious software, surveillance, and advertising. However, their waterproof gaskets have worn out so they no longer work for me. Casio no longer makes them or any comparable product (their website is out of date).
Today's watches include everything from heart rate monitors to TV remote controls, and Casio even plans to release a new version of their Android Wear watch with a low-power GPS chip and mapping software. But what's your best suggestion? "I don't want a watch that duplicates the function of my cell phone or computer," adds the original submission -- so leave your best answers in the comments. What's the most useful nerd watch today?

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