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Businesses

Square Said To Acquire Team From Struggling Social App Yik Yak (bloomberg.com) 14

According to Bloomberg, Square has acquired the engineering team of Yik Yak for "less than $3 million." From the report: The payments processor paid less than $3 million for between five and ten of Yik Yak's engineers, according to the person. Atlanta-based Yik Yak's Chief Executive Officer Tyler Droll will not join Square, the person added, asking not to be identified talking about a private matter. Atlanta-based Yik Yak, which started in 2013, created a smartphone app that allowed people to contribute to anonymous chat groups in a narrow geographical radius -- like college campuses.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Nadella Banks On LinkedIn Data To Challenge Salesforce (reuters.com) 31

Microsoft is rolling out upgrades to its sales software that integrates data from LinkedIn, an initiative that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Reuters was central to the company's long-term strategy for building specialized business software. From the report: The improvements to Dynamics 365, as Microsoft's sales software is called, are a challenge to market leader Salesforce.com and represent the first major product initiative to spring from Microsoft's $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the business-focused social network. The new features will comb through a salesperson's email, calendar and LinkedIn relationships to help gauge how warm their relationship is with a potential customer. The system will recommend ways to save an at-risk deal, like calling in a co-worker who is connected to the potential customer on LinkedIn. [...] The artificial intelligence, or AI, capabilities of the software would be central, Nadella said. "I want to be able to democratize AI so that any customer using these products is able to, in fact, take their own data and load it into AI for themselves," he said. On Monday, LinkedIn said it has surpassed 500 million members globally, one of the first big milestones for the business social network since its acquisition.
Social Networks

Some of the Biggest Economies Aren't a Big User Of Social Media (axios.com) 74

From a report: Only 37 percent of Germans use social media, according to a new Pew survey, a surprising figure given the fact that Germany is the world's fourth-largest economy by GDP, according to the World Economic Forum. Similar patterns follow for Japan, France and Italy, ranked 3rd, 6th and 8th in largest economy by GDP.
Social Networks

Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other? (bostonglobe.com) 284

Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader reports on Carr's newest warning: It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them. The assumption underpins our deep-seated belief that communication networks, from the telephone system to Facebook, will help create social harmony. But what if the opposite is true? In a Boston Globe article, Nicholas Carr presents evidence showing that as we get more information about other people, we tend to like them less, not more. Through a phenomenon called "dissimilarity cascades," we place greater stress on personal and cultural differences than on similarities, and the bias strengthens as information accumulates. "Proximity makes differences stand out," he writes. The phenomenon intensifies online, where people are rewarded for sharing endless information about themselves. What the research indicates, warns Carr, is that the spread of social media is more likely to create social strife than social harmony.
The article concludes by opposing the idea that "If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It's a pleasant thought, but it's a fantasy... Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst. What it doesn't do is make us better people. That's a job we can't offload on machines."
Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 89

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.
The Internet

America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People (oregonlive.com) 97

"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services.

The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter.

The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.
Microsoft

LinkedIn Apologizes For Trying To Connect Everyone In Real Life (vocativ.com) 71

LinkedIn has apologized for a vague new update that told some iPhone users its app would begin sharing their data with nearby users without further explanation. From a report: The update prompted outrage on Twitter after cybersecurity expert Rik Ferguson received a strange alert when he opened the resume app to read a new message: "LinkedIn would like to make data available to nearby Bluetooth devices even when you're not using the app." That gave Ferguson, vice president of research at the cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, a handful of concerns, he told Vocativ. Among them: "the lack of specificity, which data, when, under what conditions, to which devices, why does it need to happen when I'm not using the app, what are the benefits to me, where is the feature announcement and explanation, why wasn't it listed in the app update details." Reached for comment, LinkedIn said it's a mistake -- that some iPhone users were accidentally subject to undeveloped test feature the company is still working on.
Businesses

Plastc Swiped $9 Million From Backers, Now It Plans To File For Bankruptcy and Shut Down (theverge.com) 168

Plastc announced today that it is planning to file for bankruptcy and will shut down on April 20, 2017, after raising more than $9 million through preorders and shipping to no backers. "Plastc launched in 2014 with the promise of shipping a single card that could digitally hold 20 credit or debit cards that a user could switch between," reports The Verge. From the report: With that, all backers' money is lost, and no Plastc cards will ship. Plastc announced the news on its website today along with the fact that all its employees have been laid off. Its customer care and social media channels have also been shut down. The company explains that it thought it would close $3.5 million in funding in February this year, but that fell through. Another possible investment deal of $6.75 million fell through, too. What's not clear is how more than $9 million wasn't sufficient to get backers their orders. Backers will likely have questions and want their money back, but with no one to turn to from Plastc, they'll likely be out the cash.
Canada

Canada Rules To Uphold Net Neutrality (www.cbc.ca) 65

According to a new ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator, internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person's data cap. The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers. CBC.ca reports: "Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume." The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec. Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form -- nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.
China

China To Question Apple About Live-Streaming Apps On App Store That Violate Internet Regulations (theguardian.com) 31

Three Chinese government agencies are planning to tell Apple to "tighten up checks" on live-streaming software offered on its app store, which can be used to violate internet regulation in the country. "Law enforcement officers had already met with Apple representatives over live-streaming services, [state news agency Xinhua reported], but did not provide details of the meetings," reports The Guardian. From the report: The inquiry appears to be focused on third-party apps available for download through Apple's online marketplace. The company did not respond to requests for comment. China operates the world's largest internet censorship regime, blocking a host of foreign websites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but the authorities have struggled to control an explosion in popularity of live-streaming video apps. As part of the inquiry into live-streaming, three Chinese websites -- toutiao.com, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com -- were already found to have violated internet regulations, and had broadcast content that violated Chinese law, including providing "pornographic content," the Xinhua report said. Pornography is banned in China. The three sites were told to increase oversight of live-broadcasting services, user registration and "the handling of tips-offs." Two of the websites, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com, were under formal investigation and may have their cases transferred to the police for criminal prosecutions, the Xinhua report said. Casting a wide net, the regulations state that apps cannot "engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others."
Social Networks

Facebook Owns Four Out of the Five Most Downloaded Apps Worldwide (thenextweb.com) 54

An anonymous reader shares a report: Facebook continues to storm the numbers as the company has claimed four out of the five spots for the most downloaded apps across the globe during the last quarter. Interestingly, Netflix still lords over everyone as far as revenue goes. New research by app analytics firm Sensor Tower reveals that WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat were the most downloaded apps for the first three months of this year. While the numbers differed across the App Store and Google Play, one thing both platforms shared is that Facebook owned four out of the top five spots for the most downloaded apps worldwide. While Messenger topped the App Store download charts, Facebook headed the race on Google Play.
Businesses

How Tilt Went From Hot $375 Million Startup To Fire Sale (fastcompany.com) 167

tedlistens writes: Not long ago, social payments company Tilt seemed to have it all -- a hot idea; cool, young founders with Y Combinator pedigrees; and $67 million in funding -- not to mention a $375 million valuation. But Tilt was more successful at cultivating its user growth and fun, frat-tastic office culture than at nailing down a viable business model. When Tilt finally ran out of cash, the party ended with the company's sale at fire-sale prices to fellow Y Combinator alums Airbnb in an aqui-hire deal. Where did it all go wrong? Here's an excerpt from the report: "Tilt was based on the premise that 'something like PayPal and Facebook would collide,' Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara says. The company aspired to be a social network for money -- instead of sharing photos and videos, users exchanged digital cash for birthday ragers and beer runs. During Tilt's early years, the pitch was simple, and carefully calibrated for Silicon Valley boardrooms: 'Let's prove that we can dominate the globe.' [...] By early 2013, millions in venture dollars were pouring into Tilt's coffers. Investors were lured by the same strong social metrics (viral coefficient, for example, a measure of user growth) that had marked Facebook as a winner. But the hopes embedded in Tilt's $375 million valuation came crashing down to earth last year. Beshara hadn't built a business; instead, he had manufactured a classic Silicon Valley mirage. While investors were throwing millions of dollars at the promise of a glittering business involving 'social' and 'money,' their Mark Zuckerberg-in-the-making was basking in the sunny glow of Bay Area praise and enjoying the ride with his bros. Revenue was not a top priority -- a remarkable oversight for any company, and a particularly galling one for a payments company. Eventually, with cash running low, Tilt went looking for a buyer..."
Facebook

Facebook Adds a Login Shortcut To Other Android Apps (engadget.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a report: Today at F8, Facebook announced it's giving the developers of third-party Android apps the ability to recognize if you've already linked a service with the social network. Soon when you download or reinstall something like Pinterest, you won't have to wonder what your password is if you've already installed Facebook. The supported app will prompt you to log in via the social network. The social network is also giving third-party developers the opportunity to use Facebook as an account recovery solution for when you forget your password.
Facebook

Facebook Launches Augmented Reality Camera Effects Developer Platform (techcrunch.com) 9

From a report: Facebook will rely on an army of outside developers to contribute augmented reality image filters and interactive experiences to its new Camera Effects platform. Later today the first effects will become availabe inside Facebook's Camera feature on smartphones, but the Camera Effects platform is designed to eventually be compatible with future augmented reality hardware such as eyeglasses.
Government

Trump Administration Kills Open.Gov, Will Not Release White House Visitor Logs (techdirt.com) 268

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: It will never be said that the Trump presidency began with a presumption of openness. His pre-election refusal to release his tax returns set a bit of precedent in that regard. The immediate post-election muffling of government agency social media accounts made the administration's opacity goals um clearer. So, in an unsurprising move, the Trump administration will be doing the opposite of the Obama administration. The American public will no longer have the privilege of keeping tabs on White House visitors. TIME reports: "The Trump Administration will not disclose logs of those who visit the White House complex, breaking with his predecessor, the White House announced Friday. White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy was due to 'the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.' Instead, the Trump Administration is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are 'presidential records' and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act." So, to further distance himself from the people he serves (and the people who elected him), Trump and his administration have shut down the transparency portal put in place by the previous Commander-in-Chief: "White House officials said the Administration is ending the contract for Open.gov, the Obama-era site that hosted the visitor records along with staff financial disclosures, salaries, and appointments. An official said it would save $70,000 through 2020 and that the removed disclosures, salaries and appointments would be integrated into WhiteHouse.gov in the coming months."
Crime

Researchers Find 25,000 Domains Used In Tech Support Scams (onthewire.io) 85

An anonymous reader writes: Three doctoral students at Stony Brook University spent eight months analyzing internet scammers who pose as remote tech support workers (usually pretending to be from Microsoft of Apple). Their research revealed more than 25,000 scam domains and thousands of different scam phone numbers. "Although victims of these scams can be anywhere, the researchers found that 85.4% of the IP addresses in these scams were located across different regions of India," reports On The Wire, "with 9.7% located in the United States and 4.9% in Costa Rica. Scammers typically asked users for an average of $291, with prices ranging from $70 to $1,000."

The researchers even called 60 of the con artists to study their technique, and concluded most were working in large, organized call centers. They use remote access tools, and in fact two popular tools were used in 81% of the scams, according to the paper. "We found that, on average, a scammer takes 17 minutes, using multiple social engineering techniques mostly based on misrepresenting OS messages, to convince users of their infections..."

Businesses

Embarrassing Ex-Employee Complaint Against Snapchat Unsealed (variety.com) 85

"Saying it had 'nothing to hide,' the company behind Snapchat released an unredacted version of a lawsuit filed against it by a former employee that claims investors and advertisers were misled about usage data." And one allegation -- about a meeting with the company's 25-year-old CEO about flawed user metrics and low adoption in India in Spain -- is particularly embarrassing. Pompliano, who had just been hired away from Facebook, contends that he presented methods to address the issue, but that Evan Spiegel, the company's CEO, abruptly cut him off. "This app is only for rich people," Spiegel said, according to Pompliano. "I don't want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain"... Pompliano claims that Spiegel then met with two other executives and determined that "Mr. Pompliano presented a risk to Snapchat's IPO."
It may have been a flip remark, but the lawsuit also alleges two data analysts confided to Pompliano that Snapchat had "an institutional aversion to looking at user data," where its efforts showed "utter incompetence". The former employee -- who was fired after three weeks -- alleges that Snapchat inflated the rate of completed registrations and the number of users who stayed longer than seven days.

Snap originally said the lawsuit should remain redacted because it contained damaging trade secrets that would help its competitors, but now Snap attorneys are accusing Pompliano and his attorneys of "just making things up... The simple fact is that he knows exactly nothing about Snap's current metrics." Variety reports that Pompliano's attorney "said that Snap withdrew its effort to seal the complaint because the company knew it would lose."
Government

GOP Congressman Defending Privacy Vote: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet' (washingtonpost.com) 305

Wisconsin congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. defended his decision to help repeal broadband privacy rules by telling a constituent, "Nobody's got to use the Internet." An anonymous reader quotes the 73-year-old congressman: "And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet... Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don't think it's my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice... That's what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives."
"The congressman then moved on to the next question," reports The Washington Post, but criticism of his remarks appeared on social media. One activist complained that the congressman's position was don't use the internet if you don't want your information sold to advertisers -- drawing a clarification from the congressman's office.

"Actually he said that nobody has to use the Internet. They have a choice. Big difference."
Facebook

Facebook Targets 30,000 Fake France Accounts Before Election (go.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Facebook says it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country's presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation. The company said Thursday it's trying to "reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts." It said its efforts "enabled us to take action" against the French accounts and that it is removing sites with the highest traffic. Facebook and French media are also running fact-checking programs in France to combat misleading information, especially around the campaign for the two-round April 23-May 7 presidential election. European authorities have also pressured Facebook and Twitter to remove extremist propaganda or other postings that violate European hate speech or other laws.
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."

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