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Richard Dawkins Opposes UK Cinemas Censoring Church's Advert Before Star Wars ( 167

An anonymous reader writes: A controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom following the decision of the three theatre chains that control 80% of the movie screens in the country to refuse to show an advertisement for the Anglican church. The 60 second advertisement is for a new Church of England website,, the purpose of which is to encourage people to pray. The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue chains refused to allow it to be shown due to a policy not allowing political or religious advertising. Richard Dawkins supported the Church on free speech grounds, stating, "I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended." Dawkins was joined by fellow atheist, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston in backing the right of the Church to show the advertisement, stating "As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity." The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "flabbergasted" by the decision to refuse to show it. The National Secular Society found it a "perfectly reasonable decision." The Anglican church had wanted to show the advert prior to the screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie given the expected large, multi-generational audiences.

UK Mobile Operator Could Block Ads At Network Level ( 102

Mickeycaskill writes: UK network operator EE says it is investigating the possibility of blocking adverts at a network level, allowing customers to limit the types and frequency of adverts they see in browsers and applications. The move is likely to concern digital publishers, many of whom rely on advertising revenue to fund their content. Ad blockers have become more popular in recent times, with many users employing them to save battery life, consume less data and protect against malvertising attacks. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile. For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon."

AMA Calls For Ban On Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs ( 305 writes: The Associated Press reports that the American Medical Association has called for a ban on direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs and implantable medical devices, saying they contribute to rising costs and patients' demands for inappropriate treatment. According to data cited in an AMA news release, ad dollars spent by drugmakers have risen to $4.5 billion in the last two years, a 30 percent increase. Physicians cited concerns that a growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives. "Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," said the AMA's Patrice A. Harris. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

The AMA also calls for convening a physician task force and launching an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs. Last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report saying that a high cost of prescription drugs remains the public's top health care priority. In the past few years, prices on generic and brand-name prescription drugs have steadily risen and experienced a 4.7 percent spike in 2015, according to the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending.


DoJ Going After Makers of Dietary Supplement ( 161

schwit1 writes: Several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, have announced criminal and civil actions related to unlawful advertising and sale of dietary supplements. "Six executives with USPlabs LLC and a related company, S.K. Laboratories, face criminal charges related to the sale of unlawful dietary supplements. Four were arrested on Tuesday and two are expected to surrender, the Justice department said. The indictment says that USPlabs used a synthetic stimulant manufactured in China to make Jack3d and OxyElite Pro but told retailers that the supplements were made from plant extracts." The FTC is working on this as well, and their press release has more details. The DoJ's case involves "more than 100 makers and marketers" of these supplements. It's about time.
Wireless Networking

LA's Smart LED Street Lights Boost Wireless Connectivity ( 75

An anonymous reader writes: Los Angeles will introduce a smart street lighting system, featuring connected LEDs and fully-integrated 4G LTE wireless technology. In a collaboration between Dutch tech firm Philips and Swedish telco Ericsson, the SmartPole project aims to deliver LA citizens public lighting which is energy efficient and improves network performance in urban areas. By the close of this week, a total of 24 SmartPoles will be installed across the Hollywood area. The city plans to place 100 poles over the coming year, with a further 500 to follow.
The Internet

NY To Probe Broadband Providers Over Internet Speeds ( 56

An anonymous reader writes with a report from The Stack that New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has begun a probe into the state's three dominant ISPs to assess whether they are actually delivering the service they advertise at the levels promised. From the article: According to leaked documents, sent to Verizon Communications, Cablevision Systems and Time Warner Cable, the New York attorney general asked each firm to hand over copies of the advertising and copy they have provided to consumers regarding internet speeds, along with any testing documents which studied the speed of their service. ... The probe plans to focus on the exchange of data through contractual partnerships between the ISPs and other networks. The AG office suspects that customers who are paying a premium fee for higher internet speeds could be experiencing a disruption to their service due to technical issues brought about by business disputes in these interconnection deals.

Google Wants Online Ad Improvement Within Months, Not Years ( 227

An anonymous reader writes: Speaking at the Wall Street Journal's WSJD Live Conference, Google's senior vice president of adverts and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy has said (paywalled) that advertisers need to address the shortcomings of online ads within 'months'. "This is essential to our survival" said Ramaswamy. "We're talking about getting this in a time frame of months rather than years. We need to get going on this." Ramaswamy was referring to recent commitment from the advertising industry to halt the rise of adblocking services by addressing common reader annoyances such as autoplay video, overly complex and slow-loading content, and excessive tracking.

UK's Largest Online Pharmacy Sold Patients' Personal Data To Fraudsters ( 58

Ewan Palmer writes: The UK's biggest online pharmacy has been fined $200,000 for selling thousands of patients' personal data to scammers who targeted the sick and vulnerable. Pharmacy2U (P2U) was found to have breached the Data Protection Act for giving away details of patients to Australian Lottery fraudsters who targeted male pensioners and health supplements company that has been cautioned for misleading advertising. A company who dealt with patients who were being marketed said they had 'no idea the trade in their data was as murky as this'.

Amazon Lawsuit Aims To Kill Fake Reviews ( 125

Mark Wilson writes with a story at Beta News (relying on this report at The Guardian) that Amazon is suing more than 1,000 fake reviewers for their misleading, paid-for reviews: The ability to read reviews of products before making a purchase is one of the great advantages of online shopping. But how do you know that what you're reading is a genuine review and not just glowing praise planted by the seller or manufacturer? Fake reviews are a serious problem, and Amazon is trying to do something about it. The retail giant has filed a lawsuit against 1,114 individuals for writing 'false, misleading, and inauthentic' reviews. Amazon says that the fakers are tarnishing its reputation, and the attempt to clean up the site is something that will be welcomed by consumers. From the Guardian's version of the story: Amazon said there had been misleading five-star reviews and comments about products, such as: “This has lit up my life” about a USB cable. A bogus comment said “definitely buying more I was impressed with how bright the lights on the cable are”, while another reviewer gave a product top marks and added the comment “cool charger”. Amazon is not suing Fiverr, a startup that raised $30m from investors last year, as the company says in its terms and conditions that advertising for services such as writing bogus reviews is banned.

In Battle With Ad Blockers, Ad Industry Fesses Up To Alienating Users ( 398

itwbennett writes: In a post on the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) website Thursday, Scott Cunningham, senior vice president of technology of IAB and general manager of its Tech Lab, issued what amounts to an apology for "[losing] track of the user experience" and called on advertisers "to do better." But it may be a case of too little, too late as "a report (PDF) released in August forecasted that U.S. websites will lose US$21.8 billion in ad revenue this year due to ad blockers," writes Jeremy Kirk.

Why Paywalls Need To Be So Fragile ( 98

An anonymous reader writes: Despite the ferment that occurs when yet another digital publisher paywalls a news-site, most paywalls are absurdly easy to circumvent, even using no other software than a web-browser, because of the need to present unrestricted content to the search engines that publicise it. None of the parties involved are considering anyone else's point of view: Google wants free flow of information funded by merit-based advertising revenue; publishers want to restore consumer lock-in in a network environment of story-led consumers who have completely abandoned the concept; and Apple is fine with content-blocking, since it just wants to sell hardware.

German Publisher Axel Springer Bans Adblocking Users From Bild Website ( 474

An anonymous reader writes: Major European publishing house Axel Springer has instituted countermeasures against users who employ adblocking software on its Bild news outlet, which represents a daily publication with a print circulation of 2.5 million. The website now presents readers with a request to either turn off the adblocking or pay a €2.99 monthly subscription fee. In a statement the company insists that online journalism must be funded by one of the 'two known revenue pillars' — advertising or sales.

Twitter Shuts Down JSON API and Names New CEO 104

An anonymous reader writes: This month Twitter is closing down the JSON endpoint API which thousands of third-party software and plugin developers have depended upon for years. The alternative Rest API offers data which is aggregated or limited in other ways, whilst the full-featured share data offered by Gnip (purchased last year by Twitter) can cost developers thousands per month to access — in one case up to £20,000 a month. The general objective seems to be to either drive users back to the core Twitter interface where they can be monetized via the social network's advertising, or to regain lost advertising by converting open source data — currently utilized a lot in scientific research — into premium information, offering the possibility for well-funded organizations to gain reputations as Twitter barometers without ever needing to expose the expensive, accurate share figures. The company also announced today that co-founder Jack Dorsey would be the new CEO.

Advertising Malware Affects Non-Jailbroken iOS Devices 69

An anonymous reader writes: Malware called YiSpecter is infecting iOS devices belonging to Chinese and Taiwanese users, and is the first piece of malware that successfully targets both jailbroken and non-jailbroken devices, Palo Alto Networks researchers warn. What's more, the techniques it uses for hiding are making it difficult to squash the infection. YiSpecter's malicious apps were signed with three iOS enterprise certificates issued by Apple so that they can be installed as enterprise apps on non-jailbroken iOS devices via in-house distribution. Through this kind of distribution, an iOS app can bypass Apple's strict code review procedures and can invoke iOS private APIs to perform sensitive operations.

Google Lets Advertisers Target By (Anonymized) Customer Data 58

An anonymous reader writes: Google's new advertising product, called Customer Match, lets advertisers upload their customer and promotional email address lists into AdWords. The new targeting capability extends beyond search to include both YouTube Trueview ads and the newly launched native ads in Gmail. Customer Match marks the first time Google has allowed advertisers to target ads against customer-owned data in Adwords. Google matches the email addresses against those of signed-in users on Google. Individual addresses are hashed and are supposedly anonymized. Advertisers will be able to set bids and create ads specifically geared to audiences built from their email lists. This new functionality seems to make de-anonymization of google's supposedly proprietary customer data just a hop, skip and jump away. If you can specify the list of addresses that get served an ad, and the criteria like what search terms will trigger that ad, you can detect if and when your target searches for specific terms. For example, create an email list that contains your target and 100 invalid email addresses that no one uses (just in case google gets wise to single-entry email lists). Repeat as necessary for as many keywords and as many email addresses that you wish to monitor.

Chrome AdBlock Joining Acceptable Ads Program (And Sold To Anonymous Company) 352

basscomm writes: Hot on the heels of the formation of the independent board to oversee "acceptable ads", users of the popular Chrome ad blocking extension, AdBlock, got notice that AdBlock is participating in the program, and that acceptable ads are being turned on by default. At the bottom of the announcement, buried in the fine print is word that AdBlock has been sold, but nobody will say to whom.

Motorola Marketed the Moto E 2015 On Promise of Updates, Stops After 219 Days 123

An anonymous reader writes: Over the past few years, Motorola has emerged as one of the best manufacturers for low-to-mid-range Android phones. Unlike many other major manufacturers, they keep their version of Android close to stock in order to keep OS updates flowing more easily. When they began marketing the Moto E 2015, updates were one of the features they trumpeted the loudest. But after the company published a list of devices that will continue to get updates, Android Police found the Moto E to be conspicuously absent. The phone launched on February 25, a mere 219 days ago. According to an official Motorola marketing video from launch day, "...we won't forget about you, and we'll make sure your Moto E stays up to date after you buy it."
The Internet

Video We Asked Doc Searls: Do Ad Blockers Cause Cancer? (Video) 116

A whimsical headline, but not much more of a shark-jumper than some of the talk we've heard lately from ad agencies, online publishers, and others who earn their living from online advertising. Doc Searls recently wrote a piece on his personal blog titled Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history. Naturally, we wanted to ask Doc to expand a bit on what he's been writing about ad blocking and advertising in general. So we had a fine conversation about online advertising -- ending with a challenge to the advertising industry, which Doc says should be looking for ways to produce better, more effective, and less annoying ways to sell to us online.

Xiaomi Investigated For Using Superlatives In Advertising, Now Illegal In China 109

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is under investigation for using superlative messaging on its website, according to a leaked document from the Beijing Ministry of Industry and Commerce. A new Chinese law states that adjectives used to promote products must not mislead consumers. The Xiaomi investigation [Chinese] follows claims made by rival Cong that the company used phrases such as 'the best' and 'the most advanced', in its online campaigns and therefore violated the country's advertising law. (The law against suprelatives doesn't seem to apply to communications by the government, about the government.)

The Real Cost of Mobile Ads 117

New submitter cvdwl writes: A New York Times (mildly paywalled) article and associated analysis discuss the consumer cost of mobile ads, assuming a US$0.01/MB data plan. The article provides one of the only estimates I've seen of the the real cost in time and money (and time is money) of mobile advertising. Ethics of ad-blockers aside, this highlights the hidden costs of data-heavy (often lazy and poorly developed) web-design. In a nutshell, the worst sites took 10-30s load 10-20MB, costing $0.15-0.40, over 4G due to a blizzard of video, heavy images, and occasionally just massive scripts. The best sites had high content to ad ratios, typically loading 1-3MB of content and >500kB of advertising.