Google

Google Is Dropping Its Google+ Requirement Across All Products Including YouTube 118 118

An anonymous reader writes: After years of plugging Google+ into all of its services, today Google announced that your Google+ profile will no longer be your identity in all its products. The company says it will take a few months for all the changes to happen, but the first product to be uncoupled will be YouTube. Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of streams, photos, and sharing, says the changes are a response to user feedback: "We've also heard that it doesn't make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use."
Government

Police Shut Down Anti-Violence Fundraiser Over Rapper's Hologram 261 261

An anonymous reader writes: A Chicago rapper by the name of Chief Keef has been making headlines recently after the city launched a campaign to deny his performance at an anti-violence event. The event was organized to raise funds for victims of recent Chicago murders in which another rapper was slain. Keef is currently wanted on warrants in the region but is living on the East Coast. He was expected to perform via a live stream projection. While Chicago officials worked to deny his performance from occurring in the city, promoters vowed that he would still perform.

A recent concert called Craze Fest was just held at the Wolf Lake Pavilion in Hammond, Indiana. The Pavilion is part of a public park. The city of Hammond refused to let promoters hold the event unless they agreed that Chief Keef would not be allowed to perform. Instead, the promoters setup a live stream projection of the rapper and showed it at the end of the concert. Once the Hologram of Keef began performing, police rushed in and began shutting down the event. This raises some interesting questions about free speech and the role of technology in it. Here's a local news article, and some brief cellphone footage of the event.
Transportation

Fiat Chrysler Hit With Record $105 Million Fine Over Botched Recalls 80 80

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has levied a record fine against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to punish them for failing to adequately recall and fix defective cars. (If Fiat sounds familiar, it's the same company that issued a 1.4 million-vehicle recall on Friday over a remote hack.) The NHTSA's $105 million fine is half-again as much as the next biggest fine (given to Honda last year over faulty airbags). Fiat Chrysler "admitted to violating federal rules requiring timely recalls and notifications to vehicle owners, dealers and regulators." The company will be forced to buy back hundreds of thousands of vehicles (at the owners' discretion, of course) that have problems with the suspension that could lead to a loss of control. A million more Jeep owners will be given a chance to trade in their vehicle at a higher rate than market value because of rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to catching fire.
The Almighty Buck

Apple and Nike Settle FuelBand Lawsuit 13 13

An anonymous reader writes: Nike and co-defendant Apple have reached an agreement to settle a class action suit that alleged false advertising from the two companies indicating that the FuelBand fitness watch had capabilities to track health. The two companies agreed that Nike would pay $2.4 million out to customers who purchased a FuelBand between January 19, 2012 and June 17, 2015. Apple was a co-defendant in the case, but only Nike has been found liable for falsely advertising the wristband.
United States

Modernizing the Copyright Office 46 46

An anonymous reader writes: Joshua Simmons has written a new article discussing the growing consensus that it is time to modernize the Copyright Office. It reviews the developments that led to the last major revision of the Copyright Act; discusses Congress's focus since 1976 on narrower copyright bills, rather than a wholesale revision of U.S. copyright law, and the developments that have led to the review hearings; and considers the growing focus on Copyright Office modernization.
Google

Plan To Run Anti-Google Smear Campaign Revealed In MPAA Emails 241 241

vivaoporto writes: Techdirt reports on a plan to run an anti-Google smear campaign via the Today Show and the WSJ discovered in MPAA emails. Despite the resistance of the Hollywood studios to comply with the subpoenas obtained by Google concerning their relationship with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (whose investigation of the company appeared to actually be run by the MPAA and the studios themselves) one of the few emails that Google have been able to get access to so far was revealed this Thursday in a filling. It's an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood's top lawyers in the Mississippi AG's office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google.

The lawyers from Hood's office flat out admit that they're expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories. One email reads: "Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed."

As Google notes in its legal filing about this email, the "plan" states that if this effort fails, then the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. This makes it pretty clear that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works.
Education

Senate Passes 'No Microsoft National Talent Strategy Goal Left Behind Act' 132 132

theodp writes: Microsoft is applauding the Senate's passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the move will improve access to K-12 STEM learning nationwide. The legislation elevates Computer Science to a "core academic subject", opening the door to a number of funding opportunities. The major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system, adds Microsoft on the Issues, also "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy," its "two-pronged" plan to increase K-12 CS education and tech immigration. Perhaps Microsoft is tackling the latter goal in under-the-radar White House visits with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, like this one, attended by Microsoft's William "It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway" Kamela and FWD.us President Joe "Save Us From Just-Sort-of-OK US Workers" Green.
Twitter

Twitter Yanks Tweets That Repeat Copyrighted Joke 138 138

Mark Wilson writes at Beta News: Can a joke be copyrighted? Twitter seems to think so. As spotted by Twitter account Plagiarism is Bad a number of tweets that repeat a particular joke are being hidden from view. The tweets have not been deleted as such, but their text has been replaced with a link to Twitter's Copyright and DMCA policy. Quality of the joke itself aside -- no accounting for taste -- this seems a strange move for a site and service which is largely based around verbatim retransmission of other people's low-character-count declarations, recipes, questions, and Yes, jokes.
EU

EU May Become a Single Digital Market of 500 Million People 127 127

RockDoctor writes: The Guardian is reporting that the EU is becoming increasingly vociferous in its opposition to "geo-blocking" — the practice of making media services available in some areas but not in others: "European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channel of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU." That adds up to a block of nearly 500 million first-world media consumers. They don't necessarily all speak the same language, but English is probably the most commonly understood single language. And the important thing for American media companies to remember is that they're not American in thought, taste or outlook.
Patents

HEVC Advance Announces H.265 Royalty Rates, Raises Some Hackles 177 177

An anonymous reader writes: The HEVC Advance patent pool has announced the royalty rates for their patent license for HEVC (aka H.265) video. HEVC users must pay these fees in addition to the license fees payable to the competing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. With HEVC Advance's fees targeting 0.5% of content owner revenue which could translate to licensing costs of over $100M a year for companies like Facebook and Netflix, Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media advocates that "content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance" in the hope that "HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable." John Carmack, Oculus VR CTO, has cited the new patent license as a reason to end his efforts to encode VR video with H.265.
China

Chinese Consumers Can Now Buy Formerly Banned Consoles, Nationwide 38 38

PC Magazine reports that China has entered a new phase in its liberalization of game console sales. Restrictions amounting to a nationwide ban were loosened recently, so that manufacturers which produced (and sold) consoles in Shanghai's free trade zone were allowed to also sell their wares elsewhere in China. The newest change is to remove that geographic requirement, so Chinese buyers are expected to be able to buy whatever consoles they'd like. Games to play on those consoles, though, are a different story.
The Courts

Georgia Lawmakers Sue Carl Malamud For Publishing Georgia Law 281 281

TechDirt reports that the state of Georgia is unhappy enough with Carl Malamud for publishing the state's own laws that it's sued Malamud for doing so. From the article: The specific issue here is that while the basic Georgia legal code is available to the public, the state charges a lot of money for the "Official Code of Georgia Annotated." The distinction here is fairly important -- but it's worth noting that the courts will regularly rely on the annotations in the official code, which more or less makes them a part of the law itself. The article uses the word "ridiculous" only 10 times; they're taking it easy on the poor legislators.
Privacy

After Progressive Insurance's Snapshot Hacked, Manufacturer Has Been, Too 3 3

An anonymous reader writes: Progressive Insurance sells a tracking device called Snapshot that is advertised as a "little device [that] turns your safe driving into savings." However Snapshot itself has been hacked, and Xirgo Technologies, which makes Snapshot, is currently hacked due to out-of-date software on their website — and has been that way since at least May 5th of 2015. Given that Chrysler just did a recall of 1.4 million cars, people should really think twice before blindly trusting the safety of their cars to any random company, especially if that company can't even keep their WordPress up-to-date or remove hacked code from their site.
Communications

An Interview With Hacking Team's CEO 80 80

Alastair Stevenson writes: I talked to the leader of the world's most hated surveillance company about its path to recovery and morals, following a massive attack on its systems. CEO David Vincenzetti, as you might expect, thinks that his company "deserves the protection of law and order," and disclaims (also as you'd expect) responsibility for what its clients do with the privacy-unraveling software it provides: Law enforcement must have a way to do what it has always done, that is to track criminals and prevent or prosecute crime. With the development of global terrorism and especially the ‘lone wolf’ terrorist, this requirement is even more important. Hacking Team has helped fight crime by providing a surveillance tool to law enforcement. The company believes this is a small step toward a more secure world for all who wish to used the Internet and digital tools lawfully.
Privacy

Researchers: Mobile Users Will Trade Data For Fun and Profit 21 21

itwbennett writes: Even as mobile users become more security and privacy conscious, researchers and other mobile data collectors still to collect user data in order to build products and services. The question: How to get users to give up that data? Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology tested two incentives: gamification and micropayments. The test involved building a campus Wi-Fi coverage map using user data collected from student participants who either played a first-person shooter game or who were paid to complete certain tasks (e.g., taking photos). The game turned out to be a quick and efficient way to build the Wi-Fi coverage map. But data from the micropayments group was found to be "sometimes unreliable, and individuals were trying to trick the system into thinking they had accomplished tasks."
The Internet

Secret Service Agents Stake Out the Ugliest Corners of the Internet 169 169

HughPickens.com writes: Josephine Wolff reports at The Atlantic that Secret Service Internet Threat Desk is a group of agents tasked with identifying and assessing online threats to the president and his family. The first part of this mission — finding threats — is in many ways made easier by the Internet: all you have to do is search! Pulling up every tweet which uses the words "Obama" and "assassinate" takes mere seconds, and the Secret Service has tried to make it easier for people to draw threats to its attention by setting up its own Twitter handle, @secretservice, for users to report threatening messages to. The difficulty is trying to figure out which ones should be taken seriously.

The Secret Service categorizes all threats, online and offline alike, into one of three categories. Class 3 threats are considered the most serious, and require agents to interview the individual who issued the threat and any acquaintances to determine whether that person really has the capability to carry out the threat. Class 2 threats are considered to be serious but issued by people incapable of actually follow up on their intentions, either because they are in jail or located at a great distance from the president. And Class 1 threats are those that may seem serious at first, but are determined not to be. The overall number of threats directed at the first family that require investigation has stayed relatively steady at about 10 per day — except for the period when Obama was first elected, when the Secret Service had to follow up on roughly 50 threats per day. "That includes threats on Twitter," says Ronald Kessler, author of In the President's Secret Service. "It makes no difference to [the Secret Service] how a threat is communicated. They can't take that chance of assuming that because it's on Twitter it's less serious."
Government

Don't Bring Your Drone To New Zealand 265 265

NewtonsLaw writes: Personal drones are changing the way some people experience vacations. Instead of toting along a camcorder or a 35mm DSLR, people are starting pack a GoPro and, increasingly, a drone on which to mount it. This is fine if you're going to a drone-friendly country, but be warned that your drone will get you into big trouble in Thailand (where all use of drones by the public is banned outright) and now in New Zealand, where strict new laws regarding the operation of drones (and even tiny toys like the 20g Cheerson CX10) come into effect on August 1.

Under these new rules, nobody can operate a drone or model aircraft without getting the prior consent of the owner over which property it is intended to fly — and (this is the kicker) also the permission of the occupiers of that property. So you can effectively forget about flying down at the local park, at scenic locations or just about any public place. Even if you could manage to get the prior permission of the land-owner, because we're talking "public place," you'd also have to get the permission of anyone and everyone who was also in the area where you intended to fly.

Other countries have produced far more sane regulations — such as limiting drone and RC model operators to flying no closer than 30m from people or buildings — but New Zealand's CAA have gone right over the top and imposed what amounts to a virtual death-sentence on a hobby that has provided endless, safe fun for people of all ages for more than 50 years. Of course if you are prepared to pay a $600 fee to become "Certified" by CAA then the restrictions on where you can fly are lifted and you don't need those permissions.
Communications

Criminal Inquiry Sought Over Hillary Clinton's Personal Email Server 421 421

cold fjord writes: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Inspectors General from the State Department and intelligence agencies have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server while she was U.S. Secretary of State. At issue is the possible mishandling of sensitive government information. Dozens of the emails provided by Hillary Clinton have been retroactively classified as part of the review of her emails as they are screened for public release. So far 3,000 of 55,000 emails have been released. The inspectors general found hundreds of potentially classified emails. "The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation, senior officials said. ... The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations."
Government

France To Reduce Reliance On Nuclear Power 463 463

AmiMoJo writes: French lawmakers have approved a bill to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. The policy was one of President Francois Hollande's campaign pledges. The legislation also includes a target of reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to the level in 1990. The new law aims to eventually halve France's energy consumption by 2050 from the 2012 level. The ambitious goal came in the lead-up to the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris later this year. France will chair the meeting.
The Courts

Uber Faces $410 Million Canadian Class Action Suit 236 236

farrellj writes: A class action suit has been filed by the Taxi and Limo drivers and owners in the Province of Ontario in Canada against Uber, demanding CAN$400 million in compensatory damages, $10 million in punitive damages. They claim Uber is violating the Ontario Highway Traffic Act that covers taxis and limos, and has caused them to lose money. They also seek an injunction against Uber operating in Ontario. "This protectionist suit is without merit," Uber said in a statement. "As we saw from a recent court ruling in Ontario, Uber is operating legally and is a business model distinct from traditional taxi services."