Businesses

If Data Is the New Oil, Are Tech Companies Robbing Us Blind? (digitaltrends.com) 3

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.

In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.

Advertising

Russia Reportedly Bought Thousands of Facebook Ads Sought To Stress Racial Divisions (thehill.com) 85

According to The Washington Post, Russia government actors bought Facebook advertisements during the 2016 election cycle that sought to exploit and divide based on hot-button racial issues. Some of the ads promoted civil rights groups such as Black Lives Matter, while others criticized them in an effort to sow division. The Hill reports: Facebook is handing over some 3,000 ads to congressional investigators as part of probes into the Kremlin's alleged effort to influence the outcome of last year's presidential election. Other ads allegedly highlighted Hillary Clinton's support among Muslim women and promoted anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages. Facebook didn't comment on the story, but did refer to a statement earlier this month from its chief privacy officer, Alex Stamos: "Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the idealogical spectrum -- touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."
Software

Is Project Management Killing Good Products, Teams and Software? (techbeacon.com) 96

New submitter mikeatTB writes: "For software development, no significant developer activity is predictable or repetitive; if it were, the developers would have automated it already," writes Steven A. Lowe, Principal Consultant Developer at ThoughtWorks, via TechBeacon. "In addition, learning is essentially a nonlinear process; it involves trying things that don't work in order to discover what does work. You might see linear progress for a while, but you don't know what you don't know, so there will be apparent setbacks. It is from these setbacks that one learns the truth about the system -- what is really needed to make it work, to make it usable, and to make a difference for the users and the business. In other words, the dirty little secret of software development is that projects don't really exist. And they're killing our products, teams, and software." Lowe continues: "Projects, with respect to software development, are imaginary boxes drawn around scope and time in an attempt to 'manage' things. This tendency is understandable, given the long fascination with so-called scientific management (a.k.a. Taylorism, a.k.a. Theory X), but these imaginary boxes do not reduce underlying complexity. On the contrary, they add unnecessary complexity and friction and invite a counterproductive temptation to focus on the box instead of the problem or product. This misplaced emphasis leads to some harmful delusions: Conformance to schedule is the same thing as success; Estimation accuracy is possible and desirable enough to measure and optimize for; The plan is perfect and guarantees success; The cost of forming and dissolving teams is zero; The cost of functional silo hand-offs is zero; The bigger and more comprehensive the plan, the better; Predictability and efficiency are paramount."
The Almighty Buck

Waymo Clarifies It Actually Wants $1.8 Billion From Uber (techcrunch.com) 17

Last week, a lawyer for Uber said Waymo was seeking about $2.6 billion from the company for the alleged theft of one of several trade secrets in a lawsuit over self-driving cars. Over the weekend, Waymo filed a document with the court noting that the correct figure was actually $1.859 billion. TechCrunch reports: It's not clear why this seemingly important detail was left uncorrected for nearly a week. The filing also includes some additional clarification around the way in which the damages figure was calculated. Though Waymo is arguing that nine trade secrets were put in jeopardy by Anthony Levandowski, it is seeking a maximum of $1.8 billion in damages. That figure is the value that Waymo is attributing to a single trade secret -- trade secret 25. The other eight secrets are being individually valued at less than $1.8 billion. Consequently, Waymo is capping the damages at the value of its most valuable compromised trade secret. Waymo's attorneys note that the $1.8 billion figure was calculated based on an estimate of "Uber's unjust enrichment from Uber's trade secret misappropriation." Waymo continues that the damages are based on Uber's own profitability forecasts of deploying autonomous vehicles into its ridesharing business.
Censorship

China Blocks WhatsApp (theverge.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: China has blocked WhatsApp, security experts confirmed today to The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled). Over the past few months, WhatsApp has experienced brief disruptions to service, with users unable to send video chats or photos. Now, even text messages are completely blocked, according to Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research firm that also monitors digital censorship in China. Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos. He said, "I think it took time for the Chinese firewall to adapt to this new protocol so that it could also target text messages." His company noticed the app disruptions beginning last Wednesday.
Security

Deloitte Hit By Cyber-attack Revealing Clients' Secret Emails (theguardian.com) 45

Accounting firm Deloitte confirmed on Monday it had suffered a cyberattack. From a report: One of the world's "big four" accountancy firms has been targeted by a sophisticated hack that compromised the confidential emails and plans of some of its blue-chip clients, the Guardian can reveal (the company has since confirmed the breach). Deloitte, which is registered in London and has its global headquarters in New York, was the victim of a cybersecurity attack that went unnoticed for months. One of the largest private firms in the US, which reported a record $37bn revenue last year, Deloitte provides auditing, tax consultancy and high-end cybersecurity advice to some of the world's biggest banks, multinational companies, media enterprises, pharmaceutical firms and government agencies. The Guardian understands Deloitte clients across all of these sectors had material in the company email system that was breached. The companies include household names as well as US government departments
Government

President Donald Trump and His Daughter Ivanka To Unveil a New Federal Computer Science Initiative With Major Tech Backers (recode.net) 222

From a report: President Donald Trump will issue a new directive Monday to supercharge the U.S. government's support for science, tech, engineering and mathematics, including coding education, three sources familiar with the White House's thinking told Recode. To start, Trump is set to sign a presidential memorandum at the White House later today that tasks the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to so-called STEM fields, as the administration seeks to train workers for high-demand computer-science jobs of the future. And on Tuesday, Trump's daughter and advisor, Ivanka, is expected to head to Detroit, where she will join business leaders for an event unveiling a series of private-sector commitments -- from Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Quicken Loans and others -- meant to boost U.S. coding and computer-science classes and programs, the sources said.
Microsoft

Microsoft Connects LinkedIn and Office 365 Via Profile Cards, Starting To Capitalize on $26B Deal (geekwire.com) 52

More than a year after Microsoft announced its plans to purchase LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the technology giant is rolling out some of the first integrations with the business social network. From a report: At its Ignite conference in Orlando this morning, Microsoft plans to announce that Office 365 will include a new "profile card" that can display LinkedIn information. For example, interviewers using Outlook would be able to easily access LinkedIn profiles of job seekers. This integration, the first between Office 365 and LinkedIn since the acquisition, is designed to make it easier for people to search for others inside their organizations. Here's how it works, according to the company: "Users who have access to this feature can access LinkedIn profile information by hovering over a person's name and navigating to the 'LinkedIn' tab on the new profile card. Microsoft service administrators continue to have control over organizational privacy and connected features in their tenant. We respect end-user privacy and will honor your LinkedIn privacy and profile visibility settings."
Businesses

Microsoft Teams is Replacing Skype for Business To Put More Pressure on Slack (theverge.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft Teams isn't even a year old, but it's about to replace Skype for Business. At Microsoft's Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida today, the software giant is revealing that it plans to kill off Skype for Business in favor of Microsoft Teams. Skype for Business took over from Lync, Microsoft's previous business chat app, back in 2015. Microsoft's original Teams launch made it look obvious that Skype for Business would eventually disappear, given the fact that Teams integrates most of Skype's functionality already. Microsoft says it has been building a new Skype infrastructure that has been "evolving rapidly," and it will serve as the enterprise-grade service for voice, video, and meetings in Microsoft Teams. A new Skype for Business server will be available in the second half of 2018 for customers not ready to move to Teams, but Microsoft is pushing Office 365 users will to move over to Teams as the key communications client instead of relying on Skype for Business.
Red Hat Software

Analyst: Enterprises Trust Red Hat Because It 'Makes Open Source Boring' (redmonk.com) 97

Tech analyst James Governor reports on what he learned from Red Hat's "Analyst Day": So it turns out Red Hat is pretty good at being Red Hat. By that I mean Red Hat sticks to the knitting, carries water and chops wood, and generally just does a good job of packaging open source technology for enterprise adoption. It's fashionable these days to decry open source -- "it's not a business". Maybe not for you, but for Red Hat it sure is. Enterprises trust Red Hat precisely because it makes open source boring. Exciting and cool, on the other hand, often means getting paged in the middle of the night. Enterprise people generally don't like that kind of thing...

Red Hat remains an anomaly -- it makes money in open source. It has new revenue streams opening up. It is well positioned to keep doing the basics, but also now have a conversation with the C-suite about transformation.

The article notes the popularity of OpenShift, Red Hat's Kubernetes distribution for managing container-based applications. (OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat's on-premises private PaaS product, now has 400 paying enterprise customers). And it also applauds Red Hat's 2016 launch of Open Innovation Labs -- a enterprise consulting service "to jumpstart innovation and software development initiatives using open source technology and DevOps methods."
Sci-Fi

'Star Trek: Discovery' Premieres Tonight (ew.com) 434

An anonymous reader quotes EW.com: Tonight CBS will premiere the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years at 8:30 p.m. on the company's regular broadcast network. Immediately afterward, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery will stream exclusively on CBS All Access -- the company's $6 per month streaming service... CBS saw an opportunity to leverage the built-in popularity of Star Trek to help fuel its fledgling All Access streaming service. The service currently has about 1 million subscribers and the company's goal is to grow it to 4 million by 2020...

But once fans watch Discovery, they'll notice the show's production values aren't like a typical broadcast show, but more reminiscent of a premium cable or streaming show. CBS was able to justify spending a bit more money on Discovery since it's going onto the paid tier. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

The Los Angeles Times reports each episode costs $8 million -- though Netflix is paying $6 million for each episode's international broadcast rights. The show's main title sequence has been released, and the Verge reports that the show is set before the original 1966 series (but after Star Trek: Enterprise) along with some other possible spoilers.

Space.com asked one of the show's actors who his favorite Star Trek captain was. "I mean, Kirk," answered James Frain, who plays the Vulcan Sarek in Discovery. "That's like, 'Who's your favorite James Bond?', and if you don't say 'Sean Connery,' really? Come on."
The Courts

Equifax Hit With 'Dozens' of Lawsuits from Shareholders and Consumers -- Plus a Possible Class Action (chicagotribune.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: Since it announced a massive data breach earlier this month, Equifax has been hit with dozens of lawsuits from shareholders, consumers and now one filed by a small Wisconsin credit union that represents what could be the first by a financial institution attempting to preemptively recoup losses caused by alleged fraud the hack could cause... In the lawsuit, which seeks class action status, Madison-based Summit Credit Union says that financial institutions will have to bear the cost of canceling and reissuing credit cards as well as absorbing the cost of any fraudulent charges. They will also lose "profits because their members or customers were unwilling or unable to use their credit cards following the breach," according to the lawsuit...

"For financial institutions it is important: They bear the financial responsibility for identity theft," said Summit's attorney Stacey Slaughter of the law firm Robins Kaplan. "All of the components that would allow someone to create a new identity" were exposed in the Equifax hack.

Equifax responded that they can't comment on pending litigation, according to the article, though "Equifax has said it did its best to respond to the breach and alerted consumers as quickly as it could..."

"The company's stock price has fallen 27 percent since it announced the hack September 7."
Security

Experian Criticized Over Credit-Freeze PIN Security and 'Dark Web' Scans (theverge.com) 65

Security researcher Brian Krebs complains that Experian's identity-protecting credit freezes are easily unfrozen online. An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Experian makes it easy to undo a credit freeze, resetting a subject's PIN through an easily accessible account recovery page. That page only asks for a person's name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number...data [that] was compromised in the Equifax breach, as well as other breaches, so we can probably assume hackers possess this information. After entering that data, attackers then just have to enter an email address -- any email -- and answer a few security questions.

That might not jump out as insecure; security questions exist for a reason. But the questions themselves are easy to answer, particularly if you know how to use the internet and a search bar. Krebs says sample questions include asking users to identify cities where they've previously lived and the people that resided with them. Much of that information is available through a person's own social media accounts, search engines, or Yellow Pages-like databases, including Spokeo and Zillow... In response to Krebs' report, Experian claims that it goes beyond the measures identified to authenticate users. "While we do not disclose those additional processes," said the company in a statement, "they include a broad array of checks that are not visible to the consumer."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Experian is also advertising a "free scan of the dark Web" which actually binds anyone who accepts it to their 17,600-word terms of service, as well as acceptance of "advertisements or offers" from financial products companies -- plus "an arbitration clause preventing you from suing the company" which a spokesperson acknowledges could remain in effect for several years.
Security

SEC Discloses Hackers Penetrated EDGAR, Profited in Trading (usatoday.com) 48

Chris Woodyard, writing for USA Today: Hackers made their way into the Security and Exchange Commission's EDGAR electronic filing system last year, retrieving private data that appear to have resulted in "an illicit gain through trading," the agency said. It was only in August that the commission learned that hackers may have been able to use their illegal activities to make ill-gotten gains through market trading, said Chairman Jay Clayton in a lengthy statement posted on the SEC's website. EDGAR, which stands for Electronic Data Gathering Analysis and Retrieval, is considered critical to the SEC's operation and the ability of investors to see the electronic filings of companies and markets. The SEC says about 50 million documents are viewed through EDGAR on a typical day. It receives about 1.7 million filings a year.
Microsoft

Bill Gates Says He's Sorry About Control-Alt-Delete (qz.com) 317

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum today, Carlyle Group co-founder and CEO David Rubenstein asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates to account for one of the most baffling questions of the digital era: Why does it take three fingers to lock or log in to a PC, and why did Gates ever think that was a good idea? Grimacing slightly, Gates deflected responsibility for the crtl-alt-delete key command, saying, "clearly, the people involved should have put another key on to make that work." Rubenstein pressed him: does he regret the decision? "You can't go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk," Gates said. But: "Sure. If I could make one small edit I would make that a single key operation." Gates has made the confession before. In 2013, he blamed IBM for the issue, saying, "The guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button."
Businesses

CEO Catches Stranger After Hours, Prompting Espionage Charges (wsj.com) 236

An anonymous reader shares a report: Samuel Straface thought he was the last one out the door one recent evening at the medical-technology startup he leads in suburban Boston. But as he passed a glass-walled conference room on the second floor, Dr. Straface says he saw a man he didn't recognize, sitting by himself in front of two open laptops and a tablet device. He continued walking a few steps toward the exit, but then, feeling uneasy, he turned back (Editor's note: the submitted link could be paywalled; alternative source). The man was later identified as Dong Liu, a dual citizen of China and Canada. And his after-hours computing at Medrobotics is at the center of an economic-espionage case brought by U.S. prosecutors. Mr. Liu is in federal custody, charged with attempting to steal trade secrets and trying to gain unauthorized access to the company's computer system, prosecutors said. If convicted of both charges, he could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. "Mr. Liu adamantly asserts his innocence and we fully expect he'll be exonerated after a careful review of the evidence," said Robert Goldstein, Mr. Liu's defense attorney. The U.S. attorney's office for the District of Massachusetts declined to comment on the case beyond details in court records. Before his arrest, police said Mr. Liu told them he was there to discuss doing business with the company -- but Dr. Straface says no one had scheduled a meeting with Mr. Liu.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Why Does Google Want To Purchase HTC? (bloomberg.com) 101

Rumor has it Google is planning to purchase HTC -- or at least a portion of it. The speculation of this has been doing rounds for weeks now, and it reached a new high today after HTC said its stock will stop trading from Thursday, as it prepares to make a "major announcement" tomorrow. Bloomberg reported today: Alphabet's Google is close to acquiring assets from Taiwan's HTC, according to a person familiar with the situation, in a bid to bolster the internet giant's nascent hardware business. HTC, once ranked among the world's top smartphone makers, is holding a town hall meeting Thursday, according to tech website Venture Beat, which cited a copy of an internal invitation. The shares will also be suspended from trading as of Sept. 21 due to a pending announcement, according to the Taiwan stock exchange. Of course Google has made similar moves in the past. It previously owned Motorola for a brief period of time, but that acquisition didn't materialize much. The company has however, since re-hired the Motorola chief it once had, Rick Osterloh, and founded a separate hardware team under his stewardship. Claude Zellweger, the one-time chief designer of HTC Vive, is also now at Google, working on that company's Daydream virtual reality system.

What reasons could Google have to purchase HTC? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
China

China Orders Bitcoin Exchanges In Capital City To Close (bbc.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities. All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September. The move follows the Chinese central bank's decision to ban initial coin offerings in early September. Top exchange BTCC said it would stop trading at the end of the month. Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks. All exchanges are required to send regulators a detailed "risk-free" plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September. The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities. Shareholders, controllers, executives, and core financial and technical staff of exchanges are also required to remain in Beijing during the shutdown and to co-operate fully with authorities.
AI

You Might Use AI, But That Doesn't Mean You're an AI Company, Says a Founder of Google Brain (venturebeat.com) 73

As AI space gets crowded, there are a slew of businesses -- new and old -- looking to market themselves as "AI companies." But according to Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain team and a luminary in the space, there's more to being an AI company than just using a neural net. From a report: In his view, while it's possible to create a website for a shopping mall, that doesn't make it an internet company. In the same way, just implementing basic machine learning does not make a standard technology company (or any other business) an AI company. "You're not an AI company because there are a few people using a few neural networks somewhere," Ng said. "It's much deeper than that." First and foremost, AI companies are strategic about their acquisition of data, which is used as the fuel for machine learning systems. Once an AI company has acquired the data, Ng said that they tend to store it in centralized warehouses for processing. Most enterprises have their information spread across multiple different warehouses, and collating that data for machine learning can prove difficult. AI companies also implement modern development practices, like frequent deployments. That means it's possible to change the product and learn from the changes.
The Internet

Internet Is Having a Midlife Crisis (bbc.com) 172

An anonymous reader shares a report: The rise of cyber-bullying and monopolistic business practices has damaged trust in the internet, pioneering entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox has told the BBC. The Lastminute.com founder also called for a "shared set of principles" to make the web happier and safer. She said the internet had done much good over the last 30 years. But she said too many people had missed out on the benefits and it was time to "take a step back". "The web has become embedded in our lives over the last three decades but I think it's reached an inflexion point, or a sort of midlife crisis," she told Radio 4's Today programme. Baroness Lane-Fox co-founded travel booking site Lastminute.com in 1998 before going on to sell the firm for 577m pound seven years later. She described the early days of the internet as being "full of energy and excitement," and akin to the "wild West". "There was this feeling that suddenly, with this access to this new technology, you could start a business from anywhere," she said. However, she said that while technology had become a hugely important sector of the UK economy, it had not fulfilled its early potential.

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