An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's customer satisfaction score for subscription TV service fell 6 percent in a new survey, putting the company near the bottom of rankings published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Comcast's score fell from 62 to 58 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a drop of more than 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. The ACSI's 2017 report on telecommunications released this week attributed the decrease to "price hikes for Xfinity (Comcast) subscriptions." Satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped industry-wide, tying the segment with Internet service (a product offered by the same companies) for last place in the ACSI's rankings. The ACSI summarized the trend as follows: "Customer satisfaction with subscription television service slips 1.5 percent to 64, tied with Internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI. Many of the same large companies offer service for Internet, television, and voice via bundling. The threat of competition from streaming services has done little to spur improvement for pay TV. Customer service remains poor, and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite TV providers during the first quarter of 2017 -- the largest loss in the history of the industry. Customers still prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, putting FiOS (Verizon Communications) in first place with a 1 percent uptick to 71. AT&T takes the next two spots with its fiber optic and satellite services."
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Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
You may remember Disney's boss revealing that hackers had threatened to leak one of the studio's new films unless it paid a ransom. Bob Iger didn't name the film, but it was thought to be "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." But now Iger says: "To our knowledge we were not hacked." From a report: Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger confirmed Thursday that a hacker claiming to have stolen an upcoming Disney movie and demanding a ransom didn't appear to have the goods. "To our knowledge we were not hacked," Iger told Yahoo Finance. "We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen. We decided to take it seriously but not react in the manner in which the person who was threatening us had required." Iger continued, "We don't believe that it was real and nothing has happened." On May 15, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Iger told ABC employees at a town hall meeting in New York that someone claiming to have stolen an upcoming movie would release the film on the internet unless the company paid a ransom. Iger told staff that the studio wouldn't meet any such demands.
Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Facebook, Amazon and more than two dozen other U.S. technology companies pressed Congress on Friday to make changes to a broad internet surveillance law, saying they were necessary to improve privacy protections and increase government transparency. The request marks the first significant public effort by Silicon Valley to wade into what is expected to be a contentious debate later the year over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, parts of which will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Of particular concern to the technology industry and privacy advocates is Section 702, which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to vacuum up vast amounts of communications from foreigners but also incidentally collects some data belonging to Americans that can be searched by analysts without a warrant.
Reader BrianFagioli writes: After searching for Opera in the Apple App Store, I noticed something odd -- none of the company's iOS browsers (Opera Mini and Opera Coast) had been updated in 2017. Since we are almost halfway through the year, I decided to ask Opera what was up. Shockingly, the company told me that it no longer has a team working on iOS. An Opera employee by the name of 'Rosi' sent me a tweet this morning, making the revelation. While the desktop version of the browser is still in development, the company has chosen to abandon its efforts on iOS. To show just how bad it is, the Opera Mini browser hasn't been updated in almost a year. Opera Coast was updated in December of 2016, however -- almost six months ago.
A new study conducted by Fluent shows a majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. While millennials lead the pack, non-millennials are doing the same. Streaming Observer reports: Nearly 3 out of every 4 (72% exactly) Americans who have cable also have access to at least one streaming service and 8% of cable subscribers plan to eliminate their service in the next year. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're paying for their streaming service. New numbers from a study conducted by Fluent show that the majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. Well over half of millennials (aged 18-34) -- 60% -- are either using someone someone else's password or giving their password to someone else. And just under half -- 48% -- of non-millennials are doing the same. The study also revealed that the main factor in what drives consumers to sign up for streaming video services is price, with 34% of Americans saying that low cost was the primary factor. That number jumps to 38% among millennials. When you take in to account that some streaming TV services start with prices as low as $20, it makes sense that price is the biggest issue. Convenience was the next biggest factor, coming in at just below 25%.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has announced the launch of its "Digits" program, coming May 31. Digits is a revamp of how T-Mobile phone numbers work, virtualizing customer numbers so they can work across multiple devices. It sounds a lot like Google Voice -- rather than having a phone number tied to a single SIM card or a device, numbers are now account-based, and you can "log in" to your phone number on several devices. T-Mobile says the new phone number system will work "across virtually all connected devices," allowing multiple phones, tablets, and PCs to get texts and calls. This means T-Mobile needs apps across all those platforms, with the press release citing "native seamless integration" in Samsung Android phones, Android and iOS apps, and a browser interface for PCs. The new phone number system is free to all T-Mobile customers. Customers can also buy an extra phone number for $10 or by signing up to the $5-per-month "T-Mobile One Plus" package, which is a bundle of extra features like a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.
An anonymous reader shares a report: A new survey of security professionals reveals that 83 percent say colleagues in other departments turn to them to fix personal computer problems. The study by security management company FireMon shows a further 80 percent say this is taking up more than an hour of their working week, which in a year could equate to more than $88,000. For organizations, eight percent of professionals surveyed helping colleagues out five hours a week or more could be costing over $400,000. Organizations are potentially paying qualified security professionals salaries upwards of $100,000 a year and seeing up to 12.5 percent of that investment being spent on non-security related activities.
Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, has a piece on The Guardian today in which he outlines the history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research. An excerpt from the article: "Publish or perish" has long been the mantra of seeking to make a success of their research career. Reputations are built on the ability to communicate something new to the world. Increasingly, however, they are determined by numbers, not by words, as universities are caught in a tangle of management targets composed of academic journal impact factors, university rankings and scores in the government's research excellence framework. The chase for metricised success has been further exacerbated by the takeover of scholarly publishing by profit-seeking commercial companies, which pose as partners but no longer seem properly in tune with academia. Evidence of the growing divergence between academic and commercial interests is visible in the secrecy around negotiations on subscription and open access charges. It's also clear from the popularity among academics of the controversial site Sci-Hub, which has made over 60m research articles freely available on the internet. Over-worked researchers could be forgiven for thinking that the time-honoured mantra has morphed to "publish, and perish anyway."
Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge: Traditionally, we think of the web as a combination of a set of specific technologies paired with some core philosophical principles. The problem -- the reason this question even matters -- is that there are a lot of potential replacements for the parts of the web that fix what's broken with technology, while undermining the principles that ought to go with it. [...] A lot of tech companies are flailing around looking for ways to fix this problem. There are web apps that work in Chrome but not really all that well elsewhere. There are Instant Articles in Facebook and AMP pages on Google. There are Instant Android apps that stream to your phone over the internet instead of being installed, which go away when you're done with them just like a browser tab. Google claims to be trying to bring some of the open ethos of the web to smart speakers. Hell, go back to 2014 and you'll find Apple pundit John Gruber arguing we should consider apps and "anything transmitted using HTTP and HTTPS" as part of the web. [...] And now, a brief definition of the web: To count as being part of the web, your app or page must: 1. Be linkable, and 2. Allow any client to access it. That's it.
Aaron Pressman, writing for Fortune: It seems nobody loves their cable TV or home Internet provider. Wireless carriers, however, are on the upswing.That's the news from the huge annual survey of 43 industries from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In 2017, cable operators and ISP tied for last place, with an average customer satisfaction rating of just 64 percent. The wireless industry was still near the bottom of the rankings, in 38th place, just below the U.S. postal system. But its 73 percent score was up almost three percentage points from last year. Many of the same companies, like Comcast and Verizon, dominate both fields, ACSI noted. And neither industry offer much choice to consumers, with most localities having only one or two cable and Internet providers. The cable industry's rating slipped 1.5 percentage points from last year, while the rating for ISPs was unchanged.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook's policies on Holocaust denial will come under fresh scrutiny following the leak of documents that show moderators are being told not to remove this content in most of the countries where it is illegal. The files explain that moderators should take down Holocaust denial material in only four of the 14 countries where it is outlawed. One document says the company "does not welcome local law that stands as an obstacle to an open and connected world" and will only consider blocking or hiding Holocaust denial messages and photographs if "we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk." A picture of a concentration camp with the caption "Never again Believe the Lies" was permissible if posted anywhere other than the four countries in which Facebook fears legal action, one document explains. Facebook contested the figures but declined to elaborate. Documents show Facebook has told moderators to remove dehumanizing speech or any "calls for violence" against refugees. Content "that says migrants should face a firing squad or compares them to animals, criminals or filth" also violate its guidelines. But it adds: "As a quasi-protected category, they will not have the full protections of our hate speech policy because we want to allow people to have broad discussions on migrants and immigration which is a hot topic in upcoming elections." The definitions are set out in training manuals provided by Facebook to the teams of moderators who review material that has been flagged by users of the social media service. The documents explain the rules and guidelines the company applies to hate speech and "locally illegal content," with particular reference to Holocaust denial. One 16-page training manual explains Facebook will only hide or remove Holocaust denial content in four countries -- France, Germany, Israel and Austria. The document says this is not on grounds of taste, but because the company fears it might get sued.
New submitter boundary writes: The UK government looks to be about to put the most egregious parts of the Investigative Powers Act into force "soon after the election" (which is in a couple of weeks) in the wake of the recent bombing in Manchester. "Technical Capability Orders" require tech companies to break their own security. I wonder who'll comply? The Independent reports: "Government will ask parliament to allow the use of those powers if Theresa May is re-elected, senior ministers told The Sun. 'We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in,' The Sun said it was told by a government minister. 'The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.'"
In an effort to fill the demand for trained data scientists, Airbnb will be running its own university-style program, complete with a custom course-numbering system. Since traditional online programs like Coursera and Udacity weren't getting the job done because they weren't tailored to Airbnb's internal data and tools, the company "decided to design a bunch of courses of its own around three levels of instruction for different employee needs," reports TechCrunch. From the report: 100-level classes on data-informed decision making have been designed to be applicable to all teams, including human resources and business development. Middle-tier classes on SQL and Superset have enabled some non-technical employees to take on roles as project managers, and more intensive courses on Python and machine learning have helped engineers brush up on necessary skills for projects. Since launching the program in Q3 2016, Airbnb has seen the weekly active users of its internal data science tools rise from 30 to 45 percent. A total of 500 Airbnb employees have taken at least one class -- and Airbnb has yet to expand the program to all 22 of its offices.
Imzy, a social media site led by ex-Reddit employee Dan McComas, announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its doors next month. The site was launched last year with much fanfare. Imzy sought to offer a community that didn't have trolls, one of the reasons that led McComas to leave Reddit two years ago. Ever since its launch, Imzy struggled to gain traction. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, the website was visited less than 400,000 times last month. McComas didn't elaborate why his service was shutting down, though he wrote: Some of you have been here since our launch into beta and some are brand new. We've loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends. Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.
The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.