Tech News Feed

California's Attempt To Protect Kids Online Could End Adults' Internet Anonymity

SlashDot - 36 min 55 sec ago
Thomas Claburn writes via The Register: California lawmakers met in Sacramento today to discuss, among other things, proposed legislation to protect children online. The bill, AB2273, known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would require websites to verify the ages of visitors. Critics of the legislation contend this requirement threatens the privacy of adults and the ability to use the internet anonymously, in California and likely elsewhere, because of the role the Golden State's tech companies play on the internet. "First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone," said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. "In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this." The bill, Goldman argues, will put an end to casual web browsing, forcing companies to collect personal information they don't want to store and protect -- and that consumers don't want to provide -- in order to authenticate the age of visitors. And since age authentication generally requires identity details, that threatens the ability to use the internet anonymously. Goldman also objects to this American state-level bill being modeled after the UK's Age-Appropriate Design Code (AADC) because European law makes compliance a matter of engagement and dialogue with regulators, in contrast to the US rules-based approach that allows more certainty about what is or not allowed. Furthermore, he contends that the scope of the bill reaches beyond children's privacy and implicates consumer protection and content moderation. He thus considers the bill "a trojan horse for comprehensive regulation of Internet services" and would turn the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) into a general internet regulation agency.

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Brazil Is Also Considering Making USB-C Chargers Mandatory For iPhones

SlashDot - 1 hour 16 min ago
Brazil's telecoms regulator Anatel has launched a public consultation on a proposal to make USB-C chargers mandatory for all smartphones sold in the country. The Verge reports: It's the latest example of lawmakers and regulators turning to USB-C as a common charging standard for phones. The EU passed a law on the matter earlier this month, making USB-C mandatory for a range of electronic gadgets (including smartphones) by the end of 2024, and in the US some Democrat politicians are pushing for similar legislation. "Aware of the aforementioned movements in the international market, Anatel's technical area evaluated the topic and presented a proposal with a similar approach for application in the Brazilian market," said Anatel in a blog post (English translation via Google Translate). In documents supporting the public consultation, Anatel said the advantages for making USB-C mandatory were primarily reducing e-waste and increasing convenience for customers. Disadvantages included higher costs to enforce the regulation and the possibility the law would discourage companies from developing new, better standards. Anatel says its public consultation will run until August 26th.

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Unity Laying Off Hundreds of Staffers

SlashDot - 1 hour 36 min ago
Unity, the company behind the popular game development engine of the same name, has recently laid off hundreds of staffers, multiple sources tell Kotaku. From the report: Founded in the mid-2000s, Unity is used by thousands of developers; you've almost certainly seen its logo pop up in the loading screens for some of your favorite -- or least-favorite -- games. In 2014, former EA head John Riccitiello took over as CEO. (In 2020, Riccitiello reportedly saw his compensation jump by 160 percent to $22 million.) The firm employed 3,300 people as of June 2020, according to its IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commision, though the company's LinkedIn and Glassdoor pages peg that figure as north of 5,000. Layoffs have afflicted Unity's offices across the globe. Sources tell Kotaku that pretty much every corner of the company has taken some sort of hit, though there's a concentration in the AI and engineering departments. On Blind, the anonymous messaging board commonly used by employees in the tech industry, Unity staffers say that roughly 300 or 400 people have been let go, and that layoffs are still ongoing. Kotaku's sources have said the same.

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Meta Sparks Anger By Charging For VR Apps

SlashDot - 1 hour 56 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Financial Times: Meta is facing a growing backlash for the charges imposed on apps created for its virtual reality headsets, as developers complain about the commercial terms set around futuristic devices that the company hopes will help create a multibillion-dollar consumer market. [...] But several developers told the Financial Times of their frustration that Meta, which is seen as having an early lead in a nascent market, has insisted on a charging model for its VR app store similar to what exists today on smartphones. This is despite Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg being strongly critical in the past of charging policies on existing mobile app stores. "Don't confuse marketing with reality -- it's good marketing to pick on Apple. But it doesn't mean Meta won't do the exact same thing," said Seth Siegel, global head of AI and cyber security at Infosys Consulting. "There is no impetus for them to be better." The "Quest Store" for Meta's Quest 2, by far the most popular VR headset on the market, takes a 30 percent cut from digital purchases and charges 15-30 percent on subscriptions, similar to the fees charged by Apple and Android. "Undoubtedly there are services provided -- they build amazing hardware and provide store services," said Daniel Sproll, chief executive of Realities.io, an immersive realities start-up behind the VR game Puzzling Places. "But the problem is that it feels like everybody agreed on this 30 percent and that's what we're stuck with. It doesn't feel like there's any competition. The Chinese companies coming out with headsets are the same. Why would they change it?" Meta defended its policies, pointing out that unlike iPhone owners, Quest users can install apps outside its official store through SideQuest, a third-party app store, or make use of App Lab, its less restricted, more experimental app store. "We want to foster choice and competition in the VR ecosystem," Meta said. "And it's working -- our efforts have produced a material financial return for developers: as we announced earlier this year, over $1 billion has been spent on games and apps in the Meta Quest Store." Developers welcome these alternatives but say their impact is limited. SideQuest has been downloaded just 396,000 times, versus 19 million for the Oculus app, according to Sensor Tower. App Lab, meanwhile, still takes a 30 percent cut of purchases. Developers are also frustrated with Meta's shift to a more restrictive approach to allowing apps on its VR app store. Chris Pruett, Meta's content ecosystem director, said Meta found that lax standards resulted in too many users being frustrated by low-quality content, so the company has opted to play more of a gatekeeper role. But developers said the resulting barriers could lack transparency. "Getting something on the Quest store is painful," said Lyron Bentovim, chief executive of the Glimpse Group, an immersive experiences group. "It's significantly worse than getting on Apple or Android stores."

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The Best Sci-Fi TV Shows on Prime Video - CNET

CNET News - 2 hours 2 min ago
Prime Video is stacked with great sci-fi series to binge throughout the week.

FCC Commissioner Wants Apple, Google To Remove TikTok From App Stores

SlashDot - 2 hours 36 min ago
A leader of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said he has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over China-related data security concerns. CNBC reports: The wildly popular short video app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which faced U.S. scrutiny under President Donald Trump. Brendan Carr, one of the FCC's commissioners, shared via Twitter a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter pointed to reports and other developments that made TikTok non-compliant with the two companies' app store policies. "TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That's the sheep's clothing," he said in the letter. "At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data." Carr's letter, dated June 24 on FCC letterhead, said if the Apple and Alphabet do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8. The statements should explain "the basis for your company's conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok's pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies," he said. A TikTok spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in a statement: "We know we're among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data. That's why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses."

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New Yorker Cartoonist Asher Perlman Explains How His Work Became a Meme - CNET

CNET News - 3 hours 3 min ago
He's a performer, comic and Emmy-nominated writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Air New Zealand's 'Skynest' Bunk Beds Could Make Flying Ultra-Long Haul a Dream - CNET

CNET News - 3 hours 3 min ago
The snooze pods will be available to add to economy bookings on the airline's new Dreamliners.

A Pair of Killer Whales Is Terrorizing Great White Sharks Off South Africa's Coast - CNET

CNET News - 3 hours 5 min ago
The orcas are attacking sharks and ripping out their livers -- forcing the predators to flee regions they once dominated.

iPhone 14 Rumor: All the Buzz We've Heard So Far - CNET

CNET News - 3 hours 6 min ago
We're collecting all the gossip about Apple's next iPhone lineup.

Substack Is Laying Off 14% of Its Staff

SlashDot - 3 hours 16 min ago
Substack, the newsletter start-up that has attracted prominent writers including George Saunders and Salman Rushdie, laid off 13 of its 90 employees on Wednesday, part of an effort to conserve cash amid an industrywide funding crunch for start-ups. The New York Times reports: Substack's chief executive, Chris Best, told employees that the cuts affected staff members responsible for human resources and writer support functions, among others, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The cuts are a blow to a company that has said it was opening up a new era of media, in which people writing stories and making videos would be more empowered, getting direct payments from readers for what they produce instead of being paid by the publications or sites where their work appears. Mr. Best told employees on Wednesday that Substack had decided to cut jobs so it could fund its operations from its own revenue without raising additional financing in a difficult market, according to the person with knowledge of the discussion. He said he wanted the company to seek funding from a position of strength if it decided to raise again. In his remarks to employees, Mr. Best said the company's revenues were increasing. He noted that Substack still had money in the bank and was continuing to hire, albeit at a slower place, the person said. Mr. Best said the cuts would allow the company to hone its focus on product and engineering. Months earlier, Substack scrapped a plan to raise additional funding after the market for venture investments cooled.

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Facebook Settlement in Tracking Lawsuit Gets Preliminary OK From Court - CNET

CNET News - 3 hours 25 min ago
The years-old class-action suit said the company tracked users on other sites even after they logged off Facebook. The company has agreed to pay $90 million.

Kim Dotcom Not Happy, Says 'Mega Mass Piracy Report' Is On the Way

SlashDot - 3 hours 56 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom does not seem like a happy man right now. After accusing two of his former colleagues [Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk] of facilitating Chinese spying, Dotcom says that a report is being produced to show that mass infringement is taking place on Mega, a company he co-founded. Surprisingly, he says it will include live pirate links to content posted by Mega users. [...] Turning his attention to former colleagues Ortmann and van der Kolk, last week Dotcom publicly blamed them for his exit from Mega, claiming they had "stolen" the company from him. How this dovetails with previous allegations related to his major falling out with former Mega CEO Tony Lentino, who also founded domain name registrar Instra, is unknown. Local media reports suggest that Dotcom hasn't spoken to former friends Ortmann and van der Kolk for years but their recent deal to avoid extradition in the Megaupload case by pleading guilty to organized crime charges puts Dotcom in a tough spot. "My co-defendants who claimed to be innocent for 10+ years were offered a sweet exit deal for a false confession," he said last week. And he wasn't finished there. After a research team found that Mega was vulnerable to attacks that allow for a "full compromise of the confidentiality of user files", Ortmann himself responded via a security notification stating that the issues had been fixed. In response, Dotcom accused Ortmann and van der Kolk of creating "backdoors" in Mega so that the Chinese government could decrypt users' files. "Same shady guys who just made a deal with the US and NZ Govt to get out of the US extradition case by falsely accusing me," he added. Whether this reference to the no-extradition-deal betrayed what was really on Dotcom's mind is up for debate but whatever the motivation, he's not letting it go. In a tweet posted yesterday, he again informed his 850K+ followers that the company he founded "is not safe" and people who think that their files are unreadable by Mega are wrong. Shortly after, Dotcom delivered another message, one even darker in tone. It targeted Mega, the company he co-founded and where his colleagues still work. It's possible to interpret the tweet in several ways but none seem beneficial to his former colleagues, Mega, or its users. "In addition to security vulnerabilities a comprehensive report about mass copyright infringement on Mega with millions of active links and channels is in the works," he said. "[P]erhaps the most worrying thing about this new complication in an escalating dispute is its potential to affect the minority of users that actually store infringing files on Mega," adds TorrentFreak. "Any detailed report of 'mass copyright infringement' will draw negative attention directly to them, especially if the report includes active hyperlinks as Dotcom suggests." "Couple that with Dotcom's allegations that the content of user files can be read, any conclusion that this upcoming infringement report hasn't been thought through from a user perspective can be easily forgiven..."

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Developer of Pokemon Go Niantic Lays Off 8% of Staff - CNET

CNET News - 4 hours 33 min ago
The software developer is cutting almost 100 jobs and cancelling four projects.

Pokemon Go Anniversary Event: Shadow Latios, Party Hat Charizard and More - CNET

CNET News - 4 hours 35 min ago
Pokemon Go is celebrating its sixth anniversary with a special event.

Crypto Tax Cheats Likely to Get Relief as US Crackdown Hits Snag

SlashDot - 4 hours 36 min ago
The US government's bid to collect billions of dollars in taxes is hitting a snag, with the Biden administration poised to delay when crypto brokers and exchanges must start gathering detailed information on their clients' trading. From a report: The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are likely to push off a January date for the firms to begin tracking data such as customers' capital gains and losses, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because a final decision hasn't been made. The move would mean the tax agency waits longer to get the kind of data it gets for stocks or bonds. Crypto tax evasion remains a major issue for Washington policy makers even amid the recent downturn. Treasury and the IRS have struggled to quickly draft rules, which firms will use in collecting and reporting the information on their clients' trades.

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Best Credit Cards for Good Credit for July 2022 - CNET

CNET News - 4 hours 37 min ago
Keeping a good credit score can lead to credit cards with bigger perks, lower rates and more cash back.

Big tech's abortion travel policies do nothing for its contractor workforce

Engadget - 4 hours 39 min ago

The Supreme Court's ruling last week has overnight transformed many states where abortion access was prohibitively difficult to ones where it is now de factoillegal. Congressional Democrats squandered nearly 50 years of opportunities to strengthen the right to bodily autonomy, and now in the wake of a post-Roe nation, large companies have been attempting to perform some form of triage, but their solutions, among tech firms in particular, often exclude the overwhelming majority of their workforces.

Alphabet, Meta, Amazon, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have all recently announced or reiterated policies for employees that would cover or offset the cost of traveling out of state to seek medical services, including abortions. While, as Vox's Emily Stewart rightly points out, no one should have to choose between a forced pregnancy or disclosing an abortion to their employer's HR department, the situation is significantly more grim for the hordes of contractors who keep these same businesses afloat and have not been afforded the same options.

What's at stake here is a massive number of workers. In many cases far more than the number of full-timers these companies have on payroll. The most recent estimate, in 2020, for content moderators on Facebook was 15,000 — a number which likely does not encompass moderators on Meta's other social platforms, and almost certainly excludes contingent workers at the company's many offices and data centers. (Its full-time staff, meanwhile, are barred from discussing abortion-related issues at work.)

Amazon has boasted about creating 158,000 sub-contracted roles for its network of delivery service providers. Once again this does not include drivers contracted through its internal Amazon Flex program, data center and office support workers or those handling maintenance at the company's over 1,100 warehouses. Alphabet was the subject of critical reporting in 2018 where it was revealed the majority of workers at the tech giant were not employees. The number of temporary workers, vendors or contractors (TVCs in the company parlance) is not publicly reported, but is estimated to be around 150,000.

For "gig" companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash the balance is even more skewed. Against its approximately 30,000 employees, estimates on the number of contractor drivers working for Uber range from 3.9 million to five million, with about a million of those operating in the US. The most-cited claim is that Lyft has around 1.4 million drivers across the US and Toronto — though the source of that figure is nearly five years old and is likely to be much larger now. DoorDash's 6,000 employees are dwarfed by a claimed fleet of two million couriers.

It's also highly likely (though at this time still unclear) these policies will be inapplicable to part-time employees since these travel reimbursements appear to be administered through employer-provided healthcare, which part-time workers typically do not qualify for. For this reason it's also unclear if these companies had any input into creating these reimbursement programs, or if the credit belongs to their respective health insurance providers. Meta, Amazon, Alphabet and Uber did not respond to requests for comment, while Lyft and DoorDash declined to answer specific questions and passed along existing statements to press.

A Meta spokesperson told Engadget, "We intend to offer travel expense reimbursements, to the extent permitted by law, for employees who will need them to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services. We are in the process of assessing how best to do so given the legal complexities involved."

“It’s paramount that all DoorDash employees and their dependents covered on our health plans have equitable, timely access to safe healthcare," a spokesperson told Engadget. "DoorDash will cover certain travel-related expenses for employees who face new barriers to access and need to travel out of state for abortion-related care.”

"Lyft's U.S. medical benefits plan includes coverage for elective abortion and reimbursement for travel costs if an employee must travel more than 100 miles for an in-network provider," Kristin Sverchek, Lyft President of Business Affairs, wrote in a blog post published June 24. When asked if the company is doing anything for its fleet of drivers, a spokesperson instead pointed to a section of the same blog post where Sverchek wrote that the company is "partnering with [Planned Parenthood] to pilot a Women’s Transportation Access program." No recent mentions of Lyft or the phrase "Women's Transportation Access" appear anywhere in Planned Parenthood's press releases, and the organization did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication. Lyft would not comment on who the program would cover, what access it would provide, what funding it had, where it would operate or when it is projected to launch.

The hollowness of these gestures towards abortion access have not been lost on some workers. The Alphabet Workers Union, a sub-group of the Communications Workers of America, issued a statement yesterday criticizing their namesake company for failing to extend these new policies to contingent workers. "Google announced that full-time employees would have access to relocation services following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. What this fails to address is the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Alphabet temps, vendors and contract workers, who are more likely to be living in states with restricted abortion access, more likely to be workers of color," Parul Koul, a AWU member and Google software engineer wrote.

What has been echoed widely over the past several decades of the Republican project to restrict abortion access is that new barriers — closing down clinics, enacting gestational bans and now the overturning or will not stop abortions from being carried out, they merely make safe abortions harder to obtain. Current projections suggest the number of abortions is only likely to drop around 14 percent. It is all but certain the burden of forced pregnancy will overwhelmingly fall on those who are at an economic disadvantage: those without stable work, good pay, employer-sponsored healthcare or the time and savings to take off from work to seek an out of state abortion. In many cases, the situation described here overlaps precisely with the circumstances of contractors these new reimbursement policies implicitly exclude, and in a sense it makes these companies complicit in the two-tiered access Republicans have largely succeeded in making a reality. Tech companies cannot promise to build the future while vast numbers of their workforces are trapped in 1972.

A Wide Range of Routers Are Under Attack By New, Unusually Sophisticated Malware

SlashDot - 5 hours 16 min ago
An unusually advanced hacking group has spent almost two years infecting a wide range of routers in North America and Europe with malware that takes full control of connected devices running Windows, macOS, and Linux, researchers reported on Tuesday. From a report: So far, researchers from Lumen Technologies' Black Lotus Labs say they've identified at least 80 targets infected by the stealthy malware, infecting routers made by Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and DrayTek. Dubbed ZuoRAT, the remote access Trojan is part of a broader hacking campaign that has existed since at least the fourth quarter of 2020 and continues to operate. The discovery of custom-built malware written for the MIPS architecture and compiled for small office and home office routers is significant, particularly given its range of capabilities. Its ability to enumerate all devices connected to an infected router and collect the DNS lookups and network traffic they send and receive and remain undetected is the hallmark of a highly sophisticated threat actor.

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