By BeauHD from Slashdot's public-service-announcement department
A new study has found that more than half of the top free mobile VPN returned by Play Store and App Store searches are from developers based in China or with Chinese ownership, raising serious concerns about data privacy. "Our investigation uncovered that over half of the top free VPN apps either had Chinese ownership or were actually based in China, which has aggressively clamped down on VPN services over the past year and maintains an iron grip on the internet within its borders," said Simon Migliano, Head of Research at Metric Labs, a company that runs the Top10VPN portal. ZDNet reports: The researcher says he analyzed the top 20 free VPN apps that appear in searches for VPN apps on the Google and Apple mobile app stores, for both the US and UK locales. He says that 17 of the 30 apps he analyzed (10 apps appeared on both stores) had formal links to China, either being a legally registered Chinese entity or by having Chinese ownership, based on business registration and shareholder information Migliano shared with ZDNet.
By BeauHD from Slashdot's return-to-sender department
Mark Zuckerberg is "not able" to attend a joint disinformation hearing in London, Facebook says. "In a letter to the UK's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the company declined to say why Zuckerberg couldn't attend, but said it remains 'happy to cooperate' with the inquiry," reports CNET. "The letter also laid out some of the efforts Facebook has made over the last year in areas like fighting fake news and striving for transparency in political ads." From the report: Damian Collins, chair of the committee, is leading the charge and noted that the social network's response is "hugely disappointing." "The fact that he has continually declined to give evidence, not just to my committee, but now to an unprecedented international grand committee, makes him look like he's got something to hide," he said in an emailed statement."
Facebook declined the initial invitation from the British and Canadian politicians in October, prompting them to send another with additional signatures from their Argentinian, Australian and Irish counterparts. This came after Zuckerberg turned down a spring invitation to give evidence to the UK Parliament about Facebook's role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, since he'd already answered questions from the European Union's Parliament and the U.S. Congress.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's slap-on-the-wrist department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Comcast has been forced to shell out $700,000 in refunds and cancel the debt of more than 20,000 Massachusetts customers after a state attorney general investigation found the company routinely jacks up consumer bills via a bevy of misleading fees. An investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy found that Comcast routinely advertises one rate, then charges customers up to 40 percent more when the bill for service actually arrives. When shocked customers then tried to cancel or downgrade to cheaper broadband and TV plans, Healy's office found they were socked with a $240 fee for violating long-term contracts. Many users were promised a locked-in rate of $99, but hidden fees and surcharges quickly left many with service plans they couldn't afford, the AG said. Under the new settlement with Massachusetts, Comcast must forgive all outstanding debts for unpaid early termination fees and related late fees, clearly disclose all fees in future advertisements, and train the company's service reps to more clearly outline billing caveats. "Comcast stuck too many Massachusetts customers with lengthy, expensive contracts that left many in debt and others with damaged credit," Healy said in a statement. "Customers have a right to clear information about the products and services they buy. This settlement should encourage the entire cable and telecommunications industry to take a close look at their advertisements and make sure customers are getting a fair offer."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-crypto-world department
Bitcoin's moment of relative stability ended abruptly Wednesday. The world's largest cryptocurrency hit its lowest level of the year, falling as much as 9 percent to a low of $5,640.36, according to CoinDesk. From a report: Bitcoin had been trading comfortably around the $6,400 range for the majority of the fall, a stark contrast from its volatile trading year. Other cryptocurrencies fared even worse on Wednesday. Ether fell as much as 13 percent while XRP, the third largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, dropped 15 percent, according to CoinMarketCap.com. The rout is likely being spurred by uncertainty around bitcoin cash, according to founder and CEO of BKCM, Brian Kelly.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Antivirus has been around for more than 20 years. But do you still need it to protect yourself today? From a report: In general, you probably do. But there are caveats. If you are worried about your iPhone, there's actually no real antivirus software for it, and iOS is engineered to make it extremely difficult for hackers to attack users, especially at scale. In the case of Apple's computers, which run MacOS, there are fewer antiviruses, but given that the threat of malware on Mac is increasing ever so slightly, it can't hurt to run an AV on it. If you have an Android phone, on the other hand, an antivirus does not hurt -- especially because there have been several cases of malicious apps available on the Google Play Store. So, on Android, an antivirus will help you, according to Martijn Grooten, the editor of trade magazine Virus Bulletin.
When it comes to computers running Windows, Grooten still thinks you should use an AV. "What antivirus is especially good at is making decisions for you," Grooten told Motherboard, arguing that if you open attachments, click on links, and perhaps you're not too technically savvy, it's good to have an antivirus that can prevent the mistakes you may make in those situations. For Grooten and Simon Edwards, the founder of SE Labs, a company that tests and ranks antivirus software, despite the fact that Windows' own antivirus -- called Defender -- is a good alternative, it's still worth getting a third-party one. "Even if [Defender] wasn't the best and it isn't the best, it's is still a lot better than having nothing," Edwards told Motherboard. Yet, "we do see a benefit in having paid for AV product."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Hurricane Harvey swamped Houston with seven days of pounding rain last August. When scientists went back to look at historical weather patterns, they reported Harvey dumped 20 percent more rain than it typically would have. The culprit: climate change. From a report: High-resolution climate simulations of 15 tropical cyclones in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans found that warming in the ocean and atmosphere increased rainfall by between 5% and 10%, although wind speeds remained largely unchanged. This situation is set to worsen under future anticipated warming, however. Researchers found that if little is done to constrain greenhouse gas emissions and the world warms by 3C to 4C this century then hurricane rainfall could increase by a third, while wind speeds would be boosted by as much as 25 knots.
"Climate change has exacerbated rainfall and is set to enhance the wind speed," said Christina Patricola, who undertook the study with her Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory colleague Michael Wehner. "My hope is that this information can be used to improve our resilience to the kinds of extreme weather events we are going to have in the future." The research, published in the journal Nature, used climate models to see how factors such as air and ocean temperatures have influenced hurricanes. Projections into the future were then made, based upon various levels of planetary warming. The findings suggest that enormously destructive storms have already been bolstered by climate change and similar events in the future are on course to be cataclysmic.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's so-it-begins department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Shawn Dixon's life changed overnight. On Tuesday he was surprised to learn that Amazon plans to build a giant campus with room for thousands of high-paid workers on the same block as the small business he owns, Otis & Finn Barbershop. "We woke up yesterday with our whole world upside down," Dixon said. The announcement that one half of Amazon HQ2 is moving into his neighborhood -- Long Island City in Queens, New York -- motivated Dixon to attend a protest of Amazon's future campus Wednesday. He was
joined by elected officials, labor leaders, and activists who gathered to speak out against the tax incentives, government subsidies and other perks -- including a helipad -- that New York is offering Amazon in exchange for the thousands of jobs the company promises to bring.
"We're worried about our ability to stay in the neighborhood," Dixon said. "I'm not against growth and I'm not against Amazon but what I'm against is giving away all this money to one of the richest companies in the world when our schools are underfunded, we don't have schools in this neighborhood, the trains don't run here, and small business owners have no protections." The rally was organized by New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents the Queens neighborhood Amazon is moving into. "By the way, Amazon was coming here without all this money anyway," Gianaris said when he took the podium.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Bill Gates wants to end malaria, and so he's particularly "energized" about gene drives, a technology that could wipe out the mosquitoes that spread the disease. Gates calls the new approach a "breakthrough," but some environmental groups say gene drives are too dangerous to ever use. From a report: Now the sides are headed for a showdown. In a letter circulated this week, scientists funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others are raising the alarm over what they say is an attempt to use a United Nations biodiversity meeting this week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to introduce a global ban on field tests of the technology. At issue is a draft resolution by diplomats updating the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which -- if adopted -- would call on governments to "refrain from" any release of organisms containing engineered gene drives, even as part of experiments. The proposal for a global gene-drive moratorium has been pushed by environmental groups that are also opposed to genetically modified soybeans and corn. They have likened the gene-drive technique to the atom bomb. In response, the Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, has been funding a counter-campaign, hiring public relations agencies to preempt restrictive legislation and to distribute today's letter. Many of its signatories are directly funded by the foundation. "This is a lobbying game on both sides, to put it bluntly," says Todd Kuiken, who studies gene-drive policy at North Carolina State University. (He says he was asked to sign the Gates letter but declined because he is a technical advisor to the UN.) New technology The gene-drive technique involves modifying a mosquito's DNA so that, when the insect breeds, it spreads a specific genetic change -- one that's bad for its survival.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's more-you-know department
Encrypted email service provider ProtonMail has launched its standalone VPN app for iOS devices. From a report: The announcement comes more than a year after ProtonVPN launched globally for desktop users and 10 months after it landed on Android, so the iOS launch has been a long time coming. There is, of course, no shortage of VPN apps out there already, but ProtonMail has built a solid reputation in the encrypted communications realm since it was founded out of CERN in 2013. Following the launch of its privacy-focused email service nearly three years ago, the company subsequently added two-factor authentication (2FA), Tor support, an encrypted contacts manager, and of course a VPN service.
ProtonMail offers various pricing tiers for ProtonVPN, ranging from free to $24 per month. Those who choose not to pay can access three countries' servers, with access on one device, but will have slower speeds, while the top $24/month tier offers access on 10 devices with server access in all available countries. In related news, ProtonMail said that ProtonVPN now has 1 million users globally.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The Russian military jammed GPS signals during a major NATO military exercise in Norway that involved thousands of US and NATO troops, the alliance said Wednesday, citing the Norwegian government. From a report: The NATO exercise, Trident Juncture, concluded Sunday and involved some 50,000 personnel. It was labeled the alliance's largest exercise since the Cold War. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden also participated in the exercise. A spokesperson for the Norwegian ministry of defense acknowledged the jamming to CNN, which it said took place between October 16 and November 7, and said it would defer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further questions to Russian authorities.
"Norway has determined that Russia was responsible for jamming GPS signals in the Kola Peninsula during Exercise Trident Juncture. Finland has expressed concern over possible jamming in Lapland," NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told CNN Wednesday. "In view of the civilian usage of GPS, jamming of this sort is dangerous, disruptive and irresponsible," she added. Asked about the report of Russian jamming, NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was aware of the reports but did not offer additional information. "We have seen there have been similar reports from Norway, and I cannot share more precise information with you," Stoltenberg said Sunday at a news conference marking the end of Trident Juncture.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's counterpoint department
Silicon Valley employees have a right and duty to protest when we think projects are unethical, writes Laura Nolan, who recently left Google. From her opinion piece for Financial Times: Messrs Bezos and Bloomberg paint Amazon and Google as victims, pushed around by powerful employees who do not care about patriotism. This is absurd. Google and Amazon, and the DoD for that matter, are some of the most dominant institutions the world has known. Mr Bezos recently became the richest man in modern history. Mr Bloomberg is not far behind on the list of the world's wealthiest. Demanding that such power be held to account is common sense.
Rank-and-file tech employees, by contrast, do not have the same leverage. Ordinary Amazon employees -- the median annual salary is less than Mr Bezos earns in 10 seconds -- have been aggressively discouraged from unionising. Microsoft fired a team of contract engineers after they voted to unionise and as yet there is no tech worker union. I believe Silicon Valley leaders have historically put profit ahead of employee livelihood and whatever perks these companies provide come at the discretion of bosses, and are less a reflection of individual merit than of employer convenience.
It is significant, then, that over the past year we've seen a groundswell of worker dissent as thousands of employees at Google, Microsoft, Amazon and elsewhere have pushed back against projects and personnel decisions they consider unethical. I am part of this growing tech workers' movement. We believe we have a duty to resist the oppressive and unethical application of the powerful technology we build, and a right to know how our work is used.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's corrections department
A major study claimed the oceans were warming much faster than previously thought. But researchers now say they can't necessarily make that claim. From a report: Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists' work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth's oceans "have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought."
"Unfortunately, we made mistakes here," said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. "I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them." The central problem, according to Keeling, came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper's conclusion about how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.
The central conclusion of the study -- that oceans are retaining ever more energy as more heat is being trapped within Earth's climate system each year -- is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions. And it hasn't changed much despite the errors. But Keeling said the authors' miscalculations mean there is a much larger margin of error in the findings, which means researchers can weigh in with less certainty than they thought.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's taste-you-can-see department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The taste of a food cannot be protected by copyright, the EU's highest legal authority has ruled in a case involving a Dutch cheese. The European Court of Justice said the taste of food was too "subjective and variable" for it to meet the requirements for copyright protection. The court was asked to rule in the case of a spreadable cream cheese and herb dip, Heksenkaas, produced by Levola. Levola argued another cheese, Witte Wievenkaas, infringed its copyright. The firm claimed that Heksenkaas was a work protected by copyright; it asked the Dutch courts to insist Smilde, the producers of Witte Wievenkaas, cease the production and sale of its cheese. The Court of Justice of the European Union was asked by Netherlands' court of appeal to rule on whether the taste of a food could be protected under the Copyright Directive. In order to quality for copyright, the taste of food must be capable of being classified as a "work" and has to meet two criteria: That it was an original intellectual creation; That there was an "expression" of that creation that makes it "identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity."
The court found that "the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision and objectivity." It said it was "identified essentially on the basis of taste sensations and experiences, which are subjective and variable," citing age, food preferences and consumption habits as examples which could influence the taster.Read Replies (0)