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Businesses

Mozilla Acquires Pocket and Its More Than 10 Million Users (recode.net) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, is buying Pocket, the read-it-later service, for an undisclosed amount. Pocket, which is described by Mozilla as its first strategic acquisition, will continue to operate as a Mozilla subsidiary. Founder Nate Weiner will continue to run Pocket, along with his team of about 25 people. Pocket, previously known as Read It Later, lets users bookmark articles, videos and other content to read or view later on the web or a mobile device. It's great for things like saving offline copies of web articles to read on plane rides or subway commutes, especially where internet access is sparse. Pocket, which was founded in 2007, has more than 10 million monthly active users, according to a rep. That's not bad, but suggests it's still a fairly niche service, especially as big firms like Facebook and Apple build simple "reading list" features into their platforms.
Movies

Can Streaming Companies Replace Hollywood Studios? (vanityfair.com) 124

"Movie-theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $10 billion," reports Vanity Fair, arguing that traditional studios should feel threatened by nimble streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, which produced the film Manchester By The Sea -- nominated for six Oscars. An anonymous reader writes: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attended the Oscars, prompting host Jimmy Kimmel to joke that if the film won, "you can expect your Oscar to arrive in 2 to 5 business days, possibly stolen by a GrubHub delivery man." But it's a symbol of an inevitable disruption in Hollywood. "Studios now account for less than 10% of their parent companies' profits," writes Vanity Fair, adding "By 2020, according to some forecasts, that share will fall to around 5%... Some 70% of box office comes from abroad, which means that studios must traffic in the sort of blow-'em-up action films and comic-book thrillers that translate easily enough to Mandarin. Or in reboots and sequels that rely on existing intellectual property." Former Paramount CEO Barry Diller famously said "I don't know why anyone would want a movie company today. They don't make movies; they make hats and whistles."

The article makes the case that Hollywood, "in its over-reliance on franchises, has ceded the vast majority of the more stimulating content to premium networks and over-the-top services such as HBO and Showtime, and, increasingly, digital-native platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. These companies also have access to analytics tools that Hollywood could never fathom, and an allergy to its inefficiency."

The article argues that with A.I., CGI, big data and innovation, "Silicon Valley has already won," and that "it's only a matter of time -- perhaps a couple of years -- before movies will be streamed on social-media sites."
Social Networks

Are Your Slack Conversations Really Private and Secure? (fastcompany.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: "Chats that seem to be more ephemeral than email are still being recorded on a server somewhere," reports Fast Company, noting that Slack's Data Request Policy says the company will turn over data from customers when "it is compelled by law to do so or is subject to a valid and binding order of a governmental or regulatory body...or in cases of emergency to avoid death or physical harm to individuals." Slack will notify customers before disclosure "unless Slack is prohibited from doing so," or if the data is associated with "illegal conduct or risk of harm to people or property."

The article also warns that like HipChat and Campfire, Slack "is encrypted only at rest and in transit," though a Slack spokesperson says they "may evaluate" end-to-end encryption at some point in the future. Slack has no plans to offer local hosting of Slack data, but if employers pay for a Plus Plan, they're able to access private conversations.

Though Slack has 4 million users, the article points out that there's other alternatives like Semaphor and open source choices like Wickr and Mattermost. I'd be curious to hear what Slashdot readers are using at their own workplaces -- and how they feel about the privacy and security of Slack?
Earth

Scientists Teach Bees How To Play Soccer (smithsonianmag.com) 74

Clint Perry, a biologist who studies the evolution of cognition in insects at Queen Mary University of London, and his colleagues have released the results of a creative new experiment in which they essentially taught bumblebees how to play "bee soccer." "The insects' ability to grasp this novel task is a big score for insect intelligence, demonstrating that they're even more complex thinkers than we thought," reports Smithsonian. From the report: For the study, published in the February 23 issue of Science, researchers gave a group of bees a novel goal (literally): to move a ball about half their size into a designated target area. The idea was to present them with a task that they would never have encountered in nature. Not only did the bees succeed at this challenge -- earning them a sugary treat -- but they astonished researchers by figuring out how to meet their new goal in several different ways. Some bees succeeded at getting their ball into the goal with no demonstration at all, or by first watching the ball move on its own. But the ones that watched other bees successfully complete the game learned to play more quickly and easily. Most impressively, the insects didn't simply copy each other -- they watched their companions do it, then figured out on their own how to accomplish the task even more efficiently using their own techniques. The results show that bees can master complex, social behaviors without any prior experience -- which could be a boon in a world where they face vast ecological changes and pressures.
Government

FCC To Halt Rule That Protects Your Private Data From Security Breaches (arstechnica.com) 119

According to Ars Technica, "The Federal Communications Commission plans to halt implementation of a privacy rule that requires ISPs to protect the security of its customers' personal information." From the report: The data security rule is part of a broader privacy rulemaking implemented under former Chairman Tom Wheeler but opposed by the FCC's new Republican majority. The privacy order's data security obligations are scheduled to take effect on March 2, but Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent that from happening. The data security rule requires ISPs and phone companies to take "reasonable" steps to protect customers' information -- such as Social Security numbers, financial and health information, and Web browsing data -- from theft and data breaches. The rule would be blocked even if a majority of commissioners supported keeping them in place, because the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau can make the decision on its own. That "full commission vote on the pending petitions" could wipe out the entire privacy rulemaking, not just the data security section, in response to petitions filed by trade groups representing ISPs. That vote has not yet been scheduled. The most well-known portion of the privacy order requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The opt-in rule is supposed to take effect December 4, 2017, unless the FCC or Congress eliminates it before then. Pai has said that ISPs shouldn't face stricter rules than online providers like Google and Facebook, which are regulated separately by the Federal Trade Commission. Pai wants a "technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world" based on the FTC's standards. According to today's FCC statement, the data security rule "is not consistent with the FTC's privacy standards."
Social Networks

Social Media Are Driving Americans Insane (bloomberg.com) 189

Deena Shanker, writing for Bloomberg: If you pull out your phone to check Twitter while waiting for the light to change, or read e-mails while brushing your teeth, you might be what the American Psychological Association calls a "constant checker." And chances are, it's hurting your mental health. Last week, the APA released a study finding that Americans were experiencing the first statistically significant stress increase in the survey's 10-year history. In January, 57 percent of respondents of all political stripes said the U.S. political climate was a very or somewhat significant source of stress, up from 52 percent who said the same thing in August. On Thursday, the APA released the second part of its 1 findings, "Stress In America: Coping With Change," examining the role technology and social media play in American stress levels. [...] The highest stress levels, it should be noted, are reserved for those who constantly check their work e-mail on days off. Their average stress level is 6.0. So those of you who think it's somehow pleasant to work from home on a Saturday afternoon, you're actually fooling yourself.
Facebook

'Social Media Needs A Travel Mode' (idlewords.com) 144

Maciej CegÅowski, a Polish-American web developer, entrepreneur, and social critic, writes on a blog post: We need a 'trip mode' for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home. Both Facebook and Google make lofty claims about user safety, but they've done little to show they take the darkening political climate around the world seriously. A 'trip mode' would be a chance for them to demonstrate their commitment to user safety beyond press releases and anodyne letters of support. What's required is a small amount of engineering, a good marketing effort, and the conviction that any company that makes its fortune hoarding user data has a moral responsibility to protect its users. To work effectively, a trip mode feature would need to be easy to turn on, configurable (so you can choose how long you want the protection turned on for) and irrevocable for an amount of time chosen by the user once it's set. There's no sense in having a 'trip mode' if the person demanding your password can simply switch it off, or coerce you into switching it off.
The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 514

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

Government

Wyden To Introduce Bill To Prohibit Warrantless Phone Searches At Border (onthewire.io) 193

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A senator from Oregon who has a long track record of involvement on security and privacy issues says he plans to introduce a bill soon that would prevent border agents from forcing Americans returning to the country to unlock their phones without a warrant. Sen. Ron Wyden said in a letter to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that he is concerned about reports that Customs and Border Patrol agents are pressuring returning Americans into handing over their phone PINs or using their fingerprints to unlock their phones. DHS Secretary John Kelly has said that he's considering the idea of asking visitors for the login data for their various social media accounts, information that typically would require a warrant to obtain. "Circumventing the normal protection for such private information is simply unacceptable," Wyden said in the letter, sent Monday. "There are well-established procedures governing how law enforcement agencies may obtain data from social media companies and email providers. The process typically requires that the government obtain a search warrant or other court order, and then ask the service provider to turn over the user's data."
Education

University Offers Course To Help Sniff Out and Refute 'Bullshit' (engadget.com) 397

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: There's now a course at the University of Washington, "Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data" that helps you find bad information and show others why it's bad. The instructors, Professors Jevin D. West and Carl T. Bergstrom, jokingly write that "we will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful ... that you acquire during the course of your college education." They add that the intention is not to be political, as "both sides of the aisle have proven themselves facile at creating and spreading bullshit." The intention, then, is to arm students (and the public if they want) with the tools to combat a scourge of misinformation that's aided and abetted by social media.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
China

China's Millennials Are Hustling For Part-Time Gigs Instead of Traditional Jobs (bloomberg.com) 147

Bloomberg has a report today in which it underscores a growing trend among millennials in China who are looking for part-time jobs. From the article: Hopping from one short-term stint to another isn't the sort of aspiration an earlier generation had in China, where the middle-class dream has long been university degrees followed by a stable job -- preferably one backed by the government. In a 2016 poll of 13,000 college students, 48 percent said they didn't want to enter the traditional labor market. Hardly any of these part-time jobs pay well, but it doesn't matter to millennials. The report adds: "The money is little," Zhang Chen, a 21-year-old accounting student said of the short gig that pays about 240 yuan ($35). "But I want a more interesting life." Chen was lined up for the work through DouMi, a startup that focuses exclusively on part-time positions and blends elements of a temp agency with an internet jobs board and marketing service. For around 130 yuan a day, DouMi users can sort crates of milk at a supermarket or hand out pamphlets on frozen sidewalks. Those considered "beautiful women," and between the ages of 18 and 28, can make four times as much plus tips by working as live-streaming models to keep mostly-male viewers entertained. Many of the roles run for mere days or weeks at a time, a flexibility that suits those juggling social lives and university studies. "Every month we have between 300,000 and 400,000 jobs," said Chief Executive Officer Zhao Shiyong.
Facebook

Of Course Facebook Is Putting a Snapchat Clone Inside WhatsApp (mashable.com) 75

Karissa Bell, writing for Mashable: Facebook is about to start pushing its next Snapchat clone on a new set of 1 billion+ users. WhatsApp is now starting to roll out its own version of Stories with an update to its Status feature. Launching now in the Netherlands and France, the feature will eventually be live in all the countries where the messaging app is available. [...] The update, which coincides with the chat app's eighth birthday, makes WhatsApp the last of the major Facebook services to get the Snapchat treatment. (The company started with Instagram last year before adding Snapchat-like features to Messenger and the main Facebook app.) Journalist Casey Newton sums up the situation with this sarcastic tweet, "Honestly whatever you think of Evan Spiegel, it's impressive that he's taking Snap public while serving as Facebook's chief product officer."
Businesses

The Death of the Click (axios.com) 129

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: For the past 10 years, we've operated on the premise that the most important digital metric is the click that refers a person to a website. That click usually comes from a social distribution channel, like Facebook or Twitter, or a search engine, like Google or Bing. But according to industry experts, the click referral is becoming an idea of the past, soon to be replaced by content exposure. [...] Most publishers have designed their websites to measure user interaction through clicks, not scroll rates or time spent on stories. As the industry moves away from click-through rates (CTR's) as the most meaningful marketing metric, those publishers will have a difficult time justifying the effectiveness of their platforms for marketers.
First Person Shooters (Games)

'Counter-Strike' Gets Invaded By An Unblockable Chat-Bot (kotaku.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: "At least one intruder is taking advantage of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive exploit to flood lobbies (even private ones) with text from chat bots that can't be kicked," writes Engadget. The attack "allegedly comes from one person," according to Kotaku, which reports that "It's a similar exploit to one found a few weeks ago, where typing messages into a lobby allowed users to rank up and down as they chose." The chat bot's text includes various complaints about Counter-Strike which it claims motivated the attack, including cheaters, hackers and "bugs that break the game," and it urges a one-day boycott "to proof [sic] them that we care about the game and want them to fix it."
Cellphones

Should International Travelers Leave Their Phones At Home? (freecodecamp.com) 512

Long-time Slashdot reader Toe, The sums up what he learned from freeCodeCamp's Quincy Larson: "Before you travel internationally, wipe your phone or bring/rent/buy a clean one." Larson's article is titled "I'll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you." All the security in the world can't save you if someone has physical possession of your phone or laptop, and can intimidate you into giving up your password... Companies like Elcomsoft make 'forensic software' that can suck down all your photos, contacts -- even passwords for your email and social media accounts -- in a matter of minutes.... If we do nothing to resist, pretty soon everyone will have to unlock their phone and hand it over to a customs agent while they're getting their passport swiped... And with this single new procedure, all the hard work that Apple and Google have invested in encrypting the data on your phone -- and fighting for your privacy in court -- will be a completely moot point.
The article warns Americans that their constitutional protections don't apply because "the U.S. border isn't technically the U.S.," calling it "a sort of legal no-man's-land. You have very few rights there." Larson points out this also affects Canadians, but argues that "You can't hand over a device that you don't have."
Businesses

Thousands Of Disabled People Are Living In 'Virtual Utopias' In Second Life (backchannel.com) 54

"For many disabled residents, who may spend 12 hours a day or more in Second Life, the most important moments and relationships of their lives happen inside the virtual world," reports Backchanel. "For them, the fevered fantasies of a decade ago have become reality: Second Life is where they live." mirandakatz shares this article: Wagner James Au, who has written extensively about Second Life, estimates they may account for roughly 20 percent of users. Some active members estimate the number higher -- at as much as 50 percent... Abundant research shows imagining movement, without actually moving the body, can have positive effects on motor skills, balance, and learning... Studies suggest the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality extend beyond movement disorders -- to chronic pain, cognitive functioning in people with ADHD and PTSD, and social skills for people on the autism spectrum.
The article describes a 90-year-old former nurse, now living in a retirement community, who's spent eight years living in a Second Life archipelago called "Virtual Ability Island" with over a thousand other members. "Watching her avatar hike trails and dance gave her the confidence to try things in the physical world that she hadn't tried in a half decade -- like stepping off a curb or standing up without any help."
Transportation

GM Plans To Build, Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts In 2018 (reuters.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker's plans said this week. It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source. In a statement on Friday, GM said: "We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think."
The Courts

Your Personal Facebook Live Videos Can Legally End Up on TV (thememo.com) 144

Kitty Knowles, reporting for the Memo: Think you control what happens to your personal videos? Think again. One father who live-streamed his partner's labour on Facebook last May, has found out the hard way: he saw the birth of his son replayed on Good Morning America and numerous other media outlets. This week, he lost a high-profile court battle against the broadcasters. If you don't want this to happen to you, don't make the same mistakes. It's one thing wanting to share a life-changing moment with friends and family. But most would understand why Kali Kanongataa didn't want his child's birth aired for all to see. That hasn't however, stopped a US judge throwing out Kanongataa's copyright infringement case against the likes of the ABC, Yahoo, and Rodale, the company that publishes Women's Health. Apparently, the father-to-be realised his film was streaming publicly on social media about 30 minutes into recording, but decided to leave it that way. Media outlets broadcasting the clips have defended doing so on the terms of "fair use." Legally, "fair use" means that when pictures or videos are the focus of a major news story, selected footage can be used.Heads up, Facebook will soon release a video app for set-top boxes by Apple and Amazon to broadcast Live videos on the big screen.
Communications

PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty 920

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word.

PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?

Update: Apparently, canceling his Youtube Red series was deemed an insufficient response. Youtube has now removed the mirror of PewDiePie's "Death to All Jews" video because it "violates Youtube's policy on hate speech." The original posting of the video had already been marked private by PewDiePie shortly after the controversy erupted. A quick check of Vimeo and Daily Motion came up empty, so you're on your own if you wish to find out for yourself what the controversy was all about.

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