Facebook

Did A Billionaire Harvest Big Data From Facebook To 'Hijack' Democracy? (theguardian.com) 452

Long-time Slashdot readers walterbyrd and whoever57 both submitted the same article about the mysterious data analytics company Cambridge Analytica and its activities with SCL Group, a 25-year-old military psyops company in the U.K. later bought by "secretive hedge fund billionaire" Robert Mercer. One former employee calls it "this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump." Facebook was the source of the psychological insights that enabled Cambridge Analytica to target individuals. It was also the mechanism that enabled them to be delivered on a large scale. The company also (perfectly legally) bought consumer datasets -- on everything from magazine subscriptions to airline travel -- and uniquely it appended these with the psych data to voter files... Finding "persuadable" voters is key for any campaign and with its treasure trove of data, Cambridge Analytica could target people high in neuroticism, for example, with images of immigrants "swamping" the country. The key is finding emotional triggers for each individual voter. Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was "voter disengagement" and "to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home"... In the U.S., the government is bound by strict laws about what data it can collect on individuals. But, for private companies anything goes.
A branch of this company reportedly also received half the campaign budgets of four pro-Brexit campaign groups, and there's some dark talk about "military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy...being used to sway elections in ways that people can't even see." The article notes the two firms have plied their services in Russia as well as Lithuania and the Ukraine, and suggests that "we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored."
Social Networks

Social Media Giants Sued For Helping ISIS (torontosun.com) 135

Long-time Slashdot reader nnet quotes the Toronto Sun: Social media giants Twitter, Google and Facebook are being sued by the families of victims of the San Bernardino terror attacks. The lawsuit claims those companies aided ISIS by letting them build their online profile and bolster recruitment. Fourteen people were killed in the December 2015 attacks by twisted husband-wife Islamist extremists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. "Without defendants Twitter, Facebook and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of IS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," the suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, alleges.
EU

'Weaponized' Twitter Bots Spread Info From French Campaign Hack (recode.net) 255

"The French media and public have been warned not to spread details about a hacking attack on presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron," writes Slashdot reader schwit1, with the election commission threatening criminal charges. But meanwhile, "the leaked documents have since spread like wildfire across social media, particularly on Twitter," reports Recode. Nicole Perlroth, a cybersecurity reporter with the New York Times, pointed out that an overwhelming amount of the tweets shared about the Macron campaign hack appear to come from automated accounts, commonly referred to as bots. About 40% of the tweets using the hashtag #MacronGate, Perlroth noted, are actually coming from only 5% of accounts using the hashtag. One account tweeted 1,668 times in 24 hours, which is more than one tweet per minute with no sleep... Twitter appears not to have done anything to combat what is obviously a bot attack, despite the fact the social media company is well aware of the problem of bot accounts being used to falsely popularize political issues during high-profile campaigns to give the impression of a groundswell of grassroots support.
The Times reporter later tweeted "This could be @twitter's death knell. Algorithms exist to deal with this. Why aren't you using them?" And one Sunlight Foundation official called the discovery "statistics from the front lines of the disinformation wars," cc-ing both Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. In other news, the BBC reports France's president has promised to "respond" to the hacking incident, giving no further details, but saying he was aware of the risks because they'd "happened elsewhere"."
Social Networks

US To Seek Social Media Details From Certain Visa Applicants (phys.org) 76

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The State Department wants to review social media, email addresses and phone numbers from some foreigners seeking U.S. visas, as part of the Trump administration's enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors. The department, in a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register, said it was seeking public comment on the requirement. But it also said it is requesting a temporary go-ahead from the White House budget office so the plan can take effect for 180 days, beginning May 18, regardless of those comments. The proposed requirements would apply to visa applicants identified for extra scrutiny, such as those who have traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. The State Department said it estimates that the rules would affect about 0.5 percent of total U.S. visa applicants, or roughly 65,000 people. Affected applicants would have to provide their social media handles and platforms used during the previous five years, and divulge all phone numbers and email addresses used during that period. U.S. consular officials would not seek social media passwords, and would not try to breach any privacy controls on applicants' accounts, according to the department's notice.
Security

Days Before Election: Macron Campaign Says It Is the Victim of Massive, Coordinated Hacking Campaign (cnbc.com) 233

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: A large trove of emails from the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was posted online late on Friday, a little more than a day before voters go to the polls to choose the country's next president in a run-off against far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Some nine gigabytes of data were posted by a user called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a document-sharing site that allows anonymous posting. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for posting the data or whether the emails were genuine. In a statement, Macron's political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) confirmed that it had been hacked. "The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information," the statement said. In its statement on Friday, En Marche! said that the documents released online only showed the normal functioning of a presidential campaign, but that authentic documents had been mixed on social media with fake ones to sow "doubt and misinformation." "The seriousness of this event is certain and we shall not tolerate that the vital interests of democracy be put at risk," it added.
Education

How Scratch Is Feeding Hacker Values into Young Minds (backchannel.com) 48

Reader mirandakatz writes: It's the 10th anniversary of Scratch, the kids programming language that's become a popular tool for training the next generation of minds in computer science. But as Steven Levy writes at Backchannel, Scratch's real value is how it imparts lessons in sharing, logic, and hackerism: 'A product of the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is steeped in a complicated set of traditions -- everything from educational philosophy to open source activism and the pursuit of artificial life. The underpinnings of this tool subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, convey a set of values through its use... These values include reverence of logic, an unshakeable belief in the power of collaboration, and a celebration of the psychic and tangible rewards of being a maker.'
The Courts

Court Rules In 'Sextortion' Case That Phone PINs Are Not Protected By Fifth Amendment (cnn.com) 410

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Can authorities access potentially incriminating information on your phone by compelling you to reveal your passcode? Or is access to your phone's secrets protected under the Constitution? The answer, at least in an extortion case involving bikini-clad models, social media celebrities and racy images, is that phone passcodes are not protected, a judge ruled Wednesday. The case stems from the arrest of Hencha Voigt, 29, and her then-boyfriend, Wesley Victor, 34, last July on charges of extortion. Voigt and Victor threatened to release sexually explicit videos and photos of social media star "YesJulz," whose real name is Julienna Goddard, unless she paid them off, according to a Miami Police Department report. Both Voigt and "YesJulz" are big names on social media. Voigt is a fitness model and Instagram celebrity who starred last fall on "WAGS Miami," an E! reality TV show about the wives and girlfriends of sports figures in South Beach. As part of the ongoing investigation into the case, prosecutors have sought to search Voigt's and Victor's phones and asked a judge to order the two to give up their phone passcodes. Prosecutors have obtained the text messages sent to Goddard, but they have been unable to bypass the passcodes on the suspects' phones -- Voigt's iPhone and Victor's BlackBerry -- to search for more evidence. As such, prosecutors filed a motion asking a circuit court judge to compel the defendants to give their passwords to authorities. A judge on Wednesday ruled on behalf of prosecutors and ordered Voigt and Victor to give up their phone passwords, according to Bozanic, Victor's attorney.
Privacy

Gmail, Google Docs Users Hit By Massive Email Phishing Scam (independent.co.uk) 60

New submitter reyahtbor warns of a "massive" phishing attack sweeping the web: Multiple media sources are now reporting on a massive Gmail/Google Docs phishing attack. The Independent is among the top publications reporting about it: "Huge numbers of people may have been compromised by the phishing scam that allows hackers to take over people's email accounts. It's not clear who is running the quickly spreading scam or why. But it gives people access to people's most personal details and information, and so the damage may be massive. The scam works by sending users an innocent looking Google Doc link, which appears to have come from someone you might know. But if it's clicked then it will give over access to your Gmail account -- and turn it into a tool for spreading the hack further. As such, experts have advised people to only click on Google Doc links they are absolutely sure about. If you have already clicked on such a link, or may have done, inform your workplace IT staff as the account may have been compromised. The hack doesn't only appear to be affecting Gmail accounts but a range of corporate and business ones that use Google's email service too. If you think you may have clicked on it, you should head to Google's My Account page. Head to the permissions option and remove the 'Google Doc' app, which appears the same as any other." UPDATE 5/3/17: Here's Google's official statement on today's phishing attack: "We have taken action to protect users against an email impersonating Google Docs & have disabled offending accounts. We've removed the fake pages, pushed updates through Safe Browsing, and our abuse team is working to prevent this kind of spoofing from happening again. We encourage users to report phishing emails in Gmail."
Security

Security Researcher and Alleged Spam Operator To Square Off In Court In Ugly Lawsuit (bleepingcomputer.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: River City Media, the company accused of running a huge spam operation, has filed a lawsuit against the security researcher and the journalist who exposed their activities. In a ludicrous lawsuit complaint, the company claims the security researcher didn't just stumble upon its unprotected Rsync server, but "perpetrated a coordinated, months-long cyberattack," during which it skirted firewall rules to access its server, used a VPN to disguise his identity, deleted critical files, and published his findings to make a name for himself as an elite security researcher. The company claims the researcher accessed Dropbox and HipChat logs, and even its PayPal account, from where it used funds to purchase various domains. The only evidence the company has is that the person who purchased the domains used a ProtonMail email, just like the researcher, who also uses a ProtonMail email. Remind you, this is the same security researcher, Chris Vickery, who discovered a Reuters database of supposed terrorism suspects, national voter databases for various U.S. states and Mexico, and various other companies.
Crime

Taser Will Use Police Body Camera Videos 'To Anticipate Criminal Activity' (theintercept.com) 76

Presto Vivace quotes a report from The Intercept: With an estimated one-third of departments using body cameras, police officers have been generating millions of hours of video footage. Taser stores terabytes of such video on Evidence.com, in private servers to which police agencies must continuously subscribe for a monthly fee. Data from these recordings is rarely analyzed for investigative purposes, though, and Taser -- which recently rebranded itself as a technology company and renamed itself "Axon" -- is hoping to change that. Taser has started to get into the business of making sense of its enormous archive of video footage by building an in-house "AI team." In February, the company acquired two computer vision startups, Dextro and Fossil Group Inc. Taser says the companies will allow agencies to automatically redact faces to protect privacy, extract important information, and detect emotions and objects -- all without human intervention. This will free officers from the grunt work of manually writing reports and tagging videos, a Taser spokesperson wrote in an email. "Our prediction for the next few years is that the process of doing paperwork by hand will begin to disappear from the world of law enforcement, along with many other tedious manual tasks." Analytics will also allow departments to observe historical patterns in behavior for officer training, the spokesperson added. "Police departments are now sitting on a vast trove of body-worn footage that gives them insight for the first time into which interactions with the public have been positive versus negative, and how individuals' actions led to it." But looking to the past is just the beginning: Taser is betting that its artificial intelligence tools might be useful not just to determine what happened, but to anticipate what might happen in the future.
Media

US Adults Will Spend More Than Half the Day Consuming Media, Study Says (emarketer.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report from marketing research firm eMarketer: Thanks to multitasking, US adults' average daily time spent with major media will slightly exceed 12 hours this year, according to eMarketer's latest report. But while our reports early in the decade told a story of robust gains -- with increases in digital usage more than compensating for declines in time spent with nondigital media -- growth has been petering out. Of course, media multitasking is what has made so much usage possible. That is how the figure for time spent can add up to 12 hours a day.
News

Slashdot Asks: Do You Still Use RSS? 438

Real Site Syndication, or RSS has been around for over a decade but it never really managed to lure regular web users (though maybe it wasn't built to serve everyone). So much so that even Google cited declining usage of Google Reader, at one time the most popular RSS reader service, as one of the two reasons for shutting down the service. With an increasingly number of people looking at Facebook and Twitter for news, we thought it would be a good time to ask the following question: Do you use any RSS reader app? If yes, do you think it is still a good way to keep track of the "new stuff" that your favorite sites publish?
Cellphones

Neowin: Microsoft's Windows Phone Business 'Is Dead' (neowin.net) 180

An anonymous reader quote Neowin: If you've been expecting Microsoft to issue a press release formally announcing the end of its Windows phone business, you're probably hoping for a bit too much. But make no mistake: its phone hardware business is dead. RIP-dead. Send-flowers-dead. Worm-food-dead. Some fans, and even some in the media, have consistently refused to acknowledge this, despite the clear signs in recent quarters. Now, Microsoft's own figures, and its statements regarding its phone division, should make it irrefutably clear that there is no life left in its Windows phone business.

During the quarter ending in December, Microsoft's phone revenue dropped to just $200 million, which included some sales of feature phones, before the company completed its sale of that business unit to Foxconn in November. That figure has now dropped to virtually nothing... Today, as Microsoft published its earnings report for Q3 FY2017, it revealed that its "Phone revenue declined $730 million". Based on its earlier financial disclosures, that means the company's phone hardware revenue fell to just $5 million for the entire quarter ending March 31, 2017. During Microsoft's earnings call today, its chief financial officer, Amy Hood, acknowledged this, stating that there was "no material phone revenue this quarter". The outlook for the next few months is similarly bleak, as Hood predicted "negligible revenue from Phone" in the coming quarter.

Stats

As Print Surges, Ebook Sales Plunge Nearly 20% (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% in the U.K. in 2016, according to the Publishers Association. Sales of physical books and journals went up by 7% over the same period, while children's books surged 16%. The same trend is on display in the U.S., where ebook sales declined 18.7% over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%...

Sales of e-readers declined by more than 40% between 2011 and 2016, according to consumer research group Euromonitor International. "E-readers, which was once a promising category, saw its sales peak in 2011. Its success was short-lived, as it spiraled downwards within a year with the entry of tablets," Euromonitor said in a research note.

The article includes an even more interesting statistic: that one-third of adults tried a "digital detox" in 2016, limiting their personal use of electronics. Are any Slashdot readers trying to limit their own screen time -- or reading fewer ebooks?
Businesses

Intel-Powered Broadband Modems Highly Vulnerable To DoS Attack (dslreports.com) 59

"It's being reported by users from the DSLReports forum that the Puma 6 Intel cable modem variants are highly susceptible to a very low-bandwidth denial-of-service attack," writes Slashdot reader Idisagree. The Register reports: Effectively, if there's someone you don't like, and they are one of thousands upon thousands of people using a Puma 6-powered home gateway, and you know their public IP address, you can kick them off the internet, we're told... According to one engineer...the flaw would be "trivial" to exploit in the wild, and would effectively render a targeted box useless for the duration of the attack... "It can be exploited remotely, and there is no way to mitigate the issue."

This is particularly frustrating for Puma 6 modem owners because the boxes are pitched as gigabit broadband gateways: the devices can be potentially choked and knocked out simply by receiving traffic that's a fraction of the bandwidth their owners are paying for... The Puma 6 chipset is used in a number of ISP-branded cable modems, including some Xfinity boxes supplied by Comcast in the US and the latest Virgin Media hubs in the UK.

The original submission also notes there's already a class action lawsuit over the performance of cable modems with Intel's Puma 6 chipset, and adds "It would appear the Atom chip was never going to live up to the task it was designed for."
Censorship

Wikipedia Is Being Blocked In Turkey (turkeyblocks.org) 94

Nine hours ago, Ilgaz wrote: The Turkey Blocks monitoring network has verified restrictions affecting the Wikipedia online encyclopedia in Turkey. A block affecting all language editions of the website [was] detected at 8:00AM local time Saturday 29 April. The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country.
stikves added Access to Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey as a result of "a provisional administrative order" imposed by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK)... Turkey Blocks said an administrative blocking order is usually expected to precede a full court blocking order in coming days. While the reason for the order was unknown early on Saturday, a statement on the BTK's website said: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651, ADMINISTRATION MEASURE has been taken for this website (wikipedia.org) according to Decision Nr. 490.05.01.2017.-182198 dated 29/04/2017 implemented by Information and Communication Technologies Authority."
The BBC adds reports from Turkish media that authorities "had asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers 'supporting terror.'"
Advertising

Amazon Confirms Advertising Will Become a 'Meaningful' Part of Its Business (thedrum.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon's advertising business has loomed quietly in the digital media space for some time but the online behemoth has given the clearest indication yet that it will now come to the fore. Advertisers and agencies have been hearing Amazon-sized footsteps for some time but until now the business has erred away from revealing too much. However, on its latest earnings call Amazon was asked by one analyst as to whether advertising could become a more "meaningful part of the business" over the near to mid-term. "It's pretty early in the days with advertising but we're very pleased with the team we have and the results," said Amazon's chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky in response to another analyst query. "Our goal is to be helpful to consumers and enhance their shopping or their viewing experience with targeted recommendations, and we think a lot of the information we have and preferences of customers and recommendations help us do that for customers."
Businesses

BitTorrent is Shutting Down Its Live TV Streaming Service (variety.com) 18

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. is set to shut down its P2P-powered live TV streaming service BitTorrent Live in the coming weeks, Variety has learned. Most of the 10-person team behind the live streaming service is expected to leave the company by the end of this week. The closure of Live comes after BitTorrent unsuccessfully tried to raise money to spin out the service into a separate company. It's also just the latest twist in a long corporate drama. Last year, two outside investors took control of BitTorrent, spent millions of dollars on an expensive expansion into the media space and promptly got themselves fired. BitTorrent has since rehired its former COO Rogelio Choy as its new CEO, and is now looking to focus on its core products. As part of that realignment, the company was looking to turn Live into a separate, venture-funded entity, but raising money for it proved challenging.
Privacy

Lawsuit: Fox News Group Hacked, Surveilled, and Stalked Ex-Host Andrea Tantaros (arstechnica.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comparing their actions to the plot this season on the Showtime series Homeland, an attorney for former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has filed a complaint in federal court against Fox News, current and former Fox executives, Peter Snyder and his financial firm Disruptor Inc., and 50 "John Doe" defendants. The suit alleges that collective participated in a hacking and surveillance campaign against her. Tantaros filed a sexual harassment suit against Roger Ailes and Fox News in August of 2016, after filing internal complaints with the company about harassment dating back to February of 2015. She was fired by the network in April of 2016, as Tantaros continued to press complaints against Fox News' then-Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and others. Tantaros had informed Fox that she would be filing a lawsuit over the alleged sexual harassment. Tantaros claims that as early as February of 2015, a group run out of a "black room" at Fox News engaged in surveillance and electronic harassment of her, including the use of "sock puppet" social media accounts to electronically stalk her. Tantaros' suit identifies Peter Snyder and Disruptor Inc. as the operators of a social influence operation using "sock puppet" accounts on Twitter and other social media.
The Almighty Buck

Most Millennials Have an Unrealistic View of Their Retirement Prospects, Analysts Say (hsbc.com) 557

From a blog post on research firm HSBC: HSBC calls for millennials to wake up to living and working longer, as research finds only 1 in 10 expects to work past 65. Most millennials have an unrealistic view of their retirement prospects according to a new report from HSBC. The latest report in The Future of Retirement series, Shifting sands, finds that on average millennials expect to retire younger than other working age generations. Millennials expect to retire at 59, two years younger than the working age average of 61. The survey of over 18,000 people in 16 countries finds that only 10 percent of millennials expect to continue working after 65 -- even as their generation faces unprecedented financial pressures and state retirement ages continue to rise around the world. This is despite 59 percent of millennials agreeing they will live much longer and will need to support themselves for longer than previous generations.

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