The Internet

Ajit Pai and the FCC Want It To Be Legal for Comcast To Block BitTorrent (theverge.com) 161

Nilay Patel, reporting for The Verge: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released his proposal to kill net neutrality this week, and while there's a lot to be unhappy with, it's hard not to be taken with the brazenness of his argument. Pai thinks it was a mistake for the FCC to try and stop Comcast from blocking BitTorrent in 2008, thinks all of the regulatory actions the FCC took after that to give itself the authority to prevent blocking were wrong, and wants to go back to the legal framework that allowed Comcast to block BitTorrent.
Canada

Justin Trudeau Is 'Very Concerned' With FCC's Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality (vice.com) 164

Justin Ling, reporting for Motherboard: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says President Donald Trump's plan to roll back net neutrality protections for the internet "does not make sense" and that he'll be looking into what he can do to defend net neutrality for the whole internet. "I am very concerned about the attacks on net neutrality," Trudeau said in Toronto, in response to a question from Motherboard about Trump's plans. "Net neutrality is something that is essential for small businesses, for consumers, and it is essential to keep the freedom associated with the internet alive." Motherboard asked specifically what Trudeau planned to do in response to the plan put forward on Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission, which could pave the way for tiered internet service and pay-for-play premium access to internet consumers. "We need to continue to defend net neutrality," Trudeau added. "And I will."
Firefox

Firefox Will Warn Users When Visiting Sites That Suffered a Data Breach (bleepingcomputer.com) 49

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers are working on a notifications system for Firefox that shows a security warning to users visiting sites that have suffered data breaches. The notifications system will use data provided by Have I Been Pwned?, a website that indexes public data breaches and allows users to search and see if their details have been compromised in any of these incidents. Work on this project has only recently started. The code to show these warnings is not even in the Firefox codebase but managed separately as an add-on available (on GitHub). The alert also includes an input field. In the add-ons current version this field doesn't do anything, but we presume it's there to allow users to search and see if their data was exposed during that site's security breach. Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned's author has confirmed his official collaboration with Mozilla on this feature.
The Internet

Cloudflare Might Be Exploring a Way To Slow Down FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's Home Internet Speeds (twitter.com) 239

Late Wednesday night, TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine pleaded to tech billionaires to purchase local ISPs near FCC chairman Ajit Pai's home and slow down his Internet speeds. One of the responders to that tweet was Matthew Prince, co-founder and chief executive of Cloudflare, who said: I could do this in a different, but equally effective, way. Sent note to our GC to see if we can without breaking any laws. In a statement to Slashdot, Mr. Prince said: Probably the easiest thing would be to slow down requests from the FCC's IP ranges. Or put up an interstitial whenever someone from those IPs visits a site behind us. I think it's less likely we'd do it across the board ourselves, more likely we'd implement it as an option our customers could opt in to. Basically taking this a step further.
The Internet

'We Are Disappointed': Tech Companies Speak Up Against the FCC's Plan To Kill Net Neutrality (businessinsider.com) 150

An anonymous reader shares a report from Business Insider: The FCC is planning to kill net neutrality -- and some tech companies are starting to speak out. Pro-net neutrality activists, who argue the principle creates a level playing-field online, are up in arms about the plan. And some tech companies are now speaking out in support of net neutrality as well, from Facebook to Netflix. Business Insider reached out to some of the biggest tech firms in America today to ask for their reaction to the FCC's plan. Their initial responses are below, and we will continue to update this post as more come in.
Youtube

YouTube To Implement New Guidelines To Protect Minors From Disturbing Content (cnet.com) 67

YouTube will be implementing five new rules to protect minors from disturbing content. They include removing ads from inappropriate videos and blocking predatory comments from videos that feature minors. CNET reports: The new guidelines are as follows:

-Tougher application of Community Guidelines and faster enforcement through technology
-Removing ads from inappropriate videos targeting families
-Blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors
-Providing guidance for creators who make family-friendly content
-Engaging and learning from experts

These rules follow recent reports that expose fundamental flaws in YouTube algorithms and screening protocol, which fail to recognize or pull down videos that feature disturbing imagery but are aimed at children for monetization purposes. Videos featuring children doing innocuous activities like exercising are also riddled with predatory or sexual comments from viewers, something YouTube is attempting to curb with its new guidelines.

Google

Google Wipes 786 Pirate Sites From Search Results (torrentfreak.com) 83

Google and several leading Russian search engines have completely wiped 786 "pirate" sites from their search results. That's according to telecoms watch Rozcomnadzor, which reports that the search providers delisted the sites after ISPs were ordered by a Moscow court to permanently block them. TorrentFreak reports: Late July, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law which requires local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor to maintain a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them. [...] Nevertheless, on October 1 the new law ("On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection") came into effect and it appears that Russia's major search engines have been very busy in its wake. According to a report from Rozcomnadzor, search providers Google, Yandex, Mail.ru, Rambler, and Sputnik have stopped presenting information in results for sites that have been permanently blocked by ISPs following a decision by the Moscow City Court. "To date, search engines have stopped access to 786 pirate sites listed in the register of Internet resources which contain content distributed in violation of intellectual property rights," the watchdog reports. The domains aren't being named by Rozcomnadzor or the search engines but are almost definitely those sites that have had complaints filed against them at the City Court on multiple occasions but have failed to take remedial action. Also included will be mirror and proxy sites which either replicate or facilitate access to these blocked and apparently defiant domains.
Network

FCC Ignored Your Net Neutrality Comment, Unless You Made a 'Serious' Legal Argument (theverge.com) 265

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments chiming in on the net neutrality debate, but from the sound of it, it's ignoring the vast majority of them. In a call with reporters yesterday discussing its plan to end net neutrality, a senior FCC official said that 7.5 million of those comments were the exact same letter, which was submitted using 45,000 fake email addresses. But even ignoring the potential spam, the commission said it didn't really care about the public's opinion on net neutrality unless it was phrased in unique legal terms. The vast majority of the 22 million comments were form letters, the official said, and unless those letters introduced new facts into the record or made serious legal arguments, they didn't have much bearing on the decision. The commission didn't care about comments that were only stating opinion. The FCC has been clear all year that it's focused on "quality" over "quantity" when it comes to comments on net neutrality. In fairness to the commission, this isn't an open vote. It's a deliberative process that weighs a lot of different factors to create policy that balances the interests of many stakeholders. But it still feels brazen hearing the commission staff repeatedly discount Americans' preference for consumer protections, simply because they aren't phrased in legal terms.
Software

Apple Scientists Disclose Self-Driving Car Research (reuters.com) 34

Apple's first publicly disclosed paper on autonomous vehicles has been posted online by the company's computer scientists. The research describes a new software approach called "VoxelNet" that helps computers detect three-dimensional objects like cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors. Reuters reports: The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, submitted on Nov. 17 to independent online journal arXiv, is significant because Apple's famed corporate secrecy around future products has been seen as a drawback among artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers. The scientists proposed a new software approach called "VoxelNet" for helping computers detect three-dimensional objects.

Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing "LiDAR" units to recognize the world around them. While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time. But with new software, the Apple researchers said they were able to get "highly encouraging results" in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data. They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR. The experiments were computer simulations and did not involve road tests.

Facebook

Facebook To Show Users Which Russian Propaganda They Followed (bloomberg.com) 252

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook will show people which Russian propaganda pages or accounts they've followed and liked on the social network, responding to a request from Congress to address manipulation and meddling during the 2016 presidential election. The tool will appear by the end of the year in Facebook's online support center, the company said in a blog post Wednesday. It will answer the user question, "How can I see if I've liked or followed a Facebook page or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency?" That's the Russian firm that created thousands of incendiary posts from fake accounts posing as U.S. citizens. People will see a list of the accounts they followed, if any, from January 2015 through August 2017. Facebook will only be showing people the names of the pages and accounts, not the content. A user will only see what they liked or followed, so if they simply saw IRA content in their news feeds, they won't be notified.
The Internet

Net Neutrality Advocates Plan Protests For December 7 at Verizon Stores (techcrunch.com) 148

Jordan Crook, writing for TechCrunch: During yesterday's announcement of the upcoming vote, the FCC neglected to mention the historic 22 million comments on the issue, the majority of which were opposed to its rollback. In response, protests are being held on December 7 at Verizon retail stores across the country. The protests were organized by Demand Progress, Fight For The Future, and FreePress Action Fund. Here's what the protest organizers have to say on their event page: "Ajit Pai is clearly still working for Verizon, not the public. But he still has to answer to Congress. So we're calling on our lawmakers to do their job overseeing the FCC and speak out against Ajit Pai's plan to gut Title II net neutrality protections and give Verizon and other giant ISPs everything on their holiday wishlist.
Businesses

EU Agrees To End Country-Specific Limits For Online Retailers (reuters.com) 70

An anonymous reader shares a report: The European Union has agreed a plan obliging online retailers operating in the bloc to make electrical goods, concert tickets or car rental available to all EU consumers regardless of where they live. Putting an end to "geoblocking", whereby consumers in one EU country cannot buy a good or service sold online in another, has been a priority for the EU as it tries to create a digital single market with 24 legislative proposals. The agreement late on Monday between the European Parliament, the EU's 28 member states and the Commission will allow EU consumers to buy products and services online from any EU country. The agreement applies to e-commerce sites including Amazon and eBay.
Security

Ask Slashdot: How Are So Many Security Vulnerabilities Possible? 346

dryriver writes: It seems like not a day goes by on Slashdot and elsewhere on the intertubes that you don't read a story headline reading "Company_Name Product_Name Has Critical Vulnerability That Allows Hackers To Description_Of_Bad_Things_Vulnerability_Allows_To_Happen." A lot of it is big brand products as well. How, in the 21st century, is this possible, and with such frequency? Is software running on electronic hardware invariably open to hacking if someone just tries long and hard enough? Or are the product manufacturers simply careless or cutting corners in their product designs? If you create something that communicates with other things electronically, is there no way at all to ensure that the device is practically unhackable?
The Internet

FCC Will Also Order States To Scrap Plans For Their Own Net Neutrality Laws (arstechnica.com) 274

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In addition to ditching its own net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission also plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service. This detail was revealed by senior FCC officials in a phone briefing with reporters today, and it is a victory for broadband providers that asked for widespread preemption of state laws. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposed order finds that state and local laws must be preempted if they conflict with the U.S. government's policy of deregulating broadband Internet service, FCC officials said. The FCC will vote on the order at its December 14 meeting. It isn't clear yet exactly how extensive the preemption will be. Preemption would clearly prevent states from imposing net neutrality laws similar to the ones being repealed by the FCC, but it could also prevent state laws related to the privacy of Internet users or other consumer protections. Pai's staff said that states and other localities do not have jurisdiction over broadband because it is an interstate service and that it would subvert federal policy for states and localities to impose their own rules.
Businesses

FCC Announces Plan To Repeal Net Neutrality (nytimes.com) 323

FCC on Tuesday said it plans to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. From a report on the New York Times: The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer to telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service. Note from the editor: the aforementioned link could be paywalled; consider the alternative sources: NPR, ArsTechnica, Associated Press, BBC, Axios, Reuters, TechCrunch, and Slate.

FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny criticized the move. She said, "So many things wrong here, like even if FCC does this FTC still won't have jurisdiction. But even if we did, most discriminatory conduct by ISPs will be perfectly legal. This won't hurt tech titans with deep pockets. They can afford to pay all the trolls under the bridge. But the entrepreneurs and innovators who truly make the Internet great won't be so lucky. It will be harder for them to compete. The FCC is upending the Internet as we know it, not saving it."

This is what the internet looks like when there is no net neutrality. Earlier today, news outlet Motherboard suggested we should build our own internet if we want to safeguard the essence of open internet.
Communications

To Save Net Neutrality, We Must Build Our Own Internet (vice.com) 193

In light of reports that FCC plans to announce a full repeal of net neutrality protections later this week, Jason Koebler, editor-in-chief of Motherboard, suggests that it is time we cut our reliance on big telecom monopolies. He writes: Net neutrality as a principle of the federal government will soon be dead, but the protections are wildly popular among the American people and are integral to the internet as we know it. Rather than putting such a core tenet of the internet in the hands of politicians, whose whims and interests change with their donors, net neutrality must be protected by a populist revolution in the ownership of internet infrastructure and networks. In short, we must end our reliance on big telecom monopolies and build decentralized, affordable, locally owned internet infrastructure. The great news is this is currently possible in most parts of the United States. There has never been a better time to start your own internet service provider, leverage the publicly available fiber backbone, or build political support for new, local-government owned networks. For the last several months, Motherboard has been chronicling the myriad ways communities passed over by big telecom have built their own internet networks or have partnered with small ISPs who have committed to protecting net neutrality to bring affordable high speed internet to towns and cities across the country. Update: FCC has announced a plan to repeal net neutrality.
Censorship

Skype Vanishes From App Stores in China (nytimes.com) 37

Skype, Microsoft's Internet phone call and messaging service, has been unavailable for download from a number of app stores in China, including Apple's, for almost a month (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), The New York Times reported on Tuesday. From the report: "We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China," an Apple spokeswoman said Tuesday in an emailed statement responding to questions about Skype's disappearance from the app store. "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business." The removal led to a volley of complaints from Chinese users on internet message boards who were no longer able to pay for Skype's services through Apple. The users said that the disruption began in late October. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, still functions in China, and its fate in the country is not yet clear. But its removal from the app stores is the most recent example of a decades-long push by China's government to control and monitor the flow of information online.
Privacy

Over 400 of the World's Most Popular Websites Record Your Every Keystroke (vice.com) 259

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The idea of websites tracking users isn't new, but research from Princeton University released last week indicates that online tracking is far more invasive than most users understand. In the first installment of a series titled "No Boundaries," three researchers from Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) explain how third-party scripts that run on many of the world's most popular websites track your every keystroke and then send that information to a third-party server. Some highly-trafficked sites run software that records every time you click and every word you type. If you go to a website, begin to fill out a form, and then abandon it, every letter you entered in is still recorded, according to the researchers' findings. If you accidentally paste something into a form that was copied to your clipboard, it's also recorded. These scripts, or bits of code that websites run, are called "session replay" scripts. Session replay scripts are used by companies to gain insight into how their customers are using their sites and to identify confusing webpages. But the scripts don't just aggregate general statistics, they record and are capable of playing back individual browsing sessions. The scripts don't run on every page, but are often placed on pages where users input sensitive information, like passwords and medical conditions. Most troubling is that the information session replay scripts collect can't "reasonably be expected to be kept anonymous," according to the researchers.
Bitcoin

An Ethereum Startup Just Vanished After People Invested $374K (vice.com) 190

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A startup on the Ethereum platform vanished from the internet on Sunday after raising $374,000 USD from investors in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraiser. Confido is a startup that pitched itself as a blockchain-based app for making payments and tracking shipments. It sold digital tokens to investors over the Ethereum blockchain in an ICO that ran from November 6 to 8. During the token sale, Confido sold people bespoke digital tokens that represent their investment in exchange for ether, Ethereum's digital currency. But on Sunday, the company unceremoniously deleted its Twitter account and took down its website. A company representative posted a brief comment to the company's now-private subforum on Reddit, citing legal problems that prevent the Confido team from continuing their work. The same message was also posted to Medium but quickly deleted.

"Right now, we are in a tight spot, as we are having legal trouble caused by a contract we signed," the message stated (a cached version of the Medium post is viewable). "It is likely that we will be able to find a solution to rectify the situation. However, we cannot assure you with 100% certainty that we will get through this." The message was apparently written by Confido's founder, one Joost van Doorn, who seems to have no internet presence besides a now-removed LinkedIn profile. Even the Confido representative on Reddit doesn't seem to know what's going on, though, posting hours after the initial message, "Look I have absolutely no idea what has happened here. The removal of all of our social media platforms and website has come as a complete surprise to me." Confido tokens had a market cap of $10 million last week, before the company disappeared, but now the tokens are worthless. And investors are crying foul.

Firefox

Another Tor Browser Feature Makes It Into Firefox: First-Party Isolation (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Unbeknown to most users, Mozilla added a privacy-enhancing feature to the Firefox browser over the summer that can help users block online advertisers from tracking them across the Internet. The feature is named First-Party Isolation (FPI) and was silently added to the Firefox browser in August, with the release of Firefox 55. FPI works by separating cookies on a per-domain basis.

This is important because most online advertisers drop a cookie on the user's computer for each site the user visits and the advertisers loads an ad. With FPI enabled, the ad tracker won't be able to see all the cookies it dropped on that user's PC, but only the cookie created for the domain the user is currently viewing. This will force the ad tracker to create a new user profile for each site the user visits and the advertiser won't be able to aggregate these cookies and the user's browsing history into one big fat profile. This feature was first implemented in the Tor Browser, a privacy-focused fork of the Firefox browser managed by the Tor Project, where it is known as Cross-Origin Identifier Unlinkability. FPI was added to Firefox as part of the Tor Uplift project, an initiative to bolster the Firefox codebase with some of the Tor Browser's unique privacy-focused features. The feature is not enabled by default. Information on how to enable it is in the linked article.

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