Government’s PACER Fees Are Too High, Federal Circuit Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg Law: The U.S. government charges too much for access to an electronic database of federal court records, the Federal Circuit ruled in a decision curbing a revenue stream the court system uses to help fund other programs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision that the government was not authorized under federal law to spend $192 million in Public Access to Court Records system fees on court technology projects. The lower court “got it just right” when it limited the government’s use of PACER revenues to the costs of operating the system, the court said in a precedential opinion Thursday.

“We agree with plaintiffs and amici that the First Amendment stakes here are high,” the court said. But it said it doesn’t foresee the lower court’s interpretation “as resulting in a level of user fees that will significantly impede public access to courts.” The ruling is a win for public access to court information, as PACER fees will go down if the ruling withstands a possible government appeal. But access still won’t be free, despite calls for the government to stop charging for it. The Federal Circuit said it was up to Congress to decide whether to require free access. Challengers said PACER fees were too high, while the government said the middle ground reached by the lower court made the fees too low. Fees for downloading a copy of a filing run 10 cents per page, up to $3 per document. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts collected more than $145 million in fees in 2014 alone, according to the complaint in the case. Under a 2020 change to the fee waiver rules, about 75% of users pay nothing each quarter.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot

A Private Equity Firm Bought Ancestry, and Its Trove of DNA, for $4.7B

The genealogy company Ancestry has been acquired by investment firm Blackstone for $4.7 billion, changing ownership of the company and its trove of user-submitted DNA from a set of investment firms to another private equity firm. From a report: The announcement was made in a press release published earlier this week by Blackstone, which shared it had “reached a definitive agreement to acquire Ancestry from Silver Lake, GIC, Spectrum Equity, Permira, and other equity holders for a total enterprise value of $4.7 billion.” Ancestry is known for its genealogy and home DNA testing services. According to its website, the company has 3 million paying subscribers, 27 billion records, and 100 million family trees. The website also says that over 18 million people have been DNA tested through the company.

“To be crystal clear, Blackstone will not have access to user data and we are deeply committed to ensuring strong consumer privacy protections at the company,” a spokesperson for Blackstone told Motherboard in an email. “We will not be sharing user DNA and family tree records with our portfolio companies.” A spokesperson from Ancestry also said the company’s relationship with its users would remain the same.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot

Why We Have a ‘TikTok Problem’

An anonymous reader shares an analysis: As national security expert Lucas Kunce notes, Facebook is in fact the reason we have a TikTok problem to begin with. When Twitter launched a TikTok-like product Vine years before, Facebook actively killed the product by refusing to let Vine access its APIs on the same terms other corporations got. Mark Zuckerberg personally made the call to shut off access to Vine, and Twitter eventually shut the product down. Then, Facebook allowed TikTok to advertise massively on its platform, at a time Zuckerberg was currying favor with the Chinese Communist Party to try to get into the Chinese market. In other words, Zuckerberg killed an American competitor using anti-competitive means, and promoted a Chinese competitor for his own business interests. Now we have a TikTok problem, but that’s because policymakers refused to enforce anti-monopoly rules against tech giants.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot

Mass hijacking spree takes over subreddits to promote Donald Trump

Mass hijacking spree takes over subreddits to promote Donald Trump

Enlarge

Dozens of discussion groups on Reddit—including those dedicated to the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Gorillaz—were hit in a Friday morning mass takeover spree that used the subreddits to spread messages promoting President Trump.

The hijacked accounts had tens of millions of combined members. The 148,000-member subreddit Supernatural, dedicated to the TV show by the same name, was emblazoned with pro-Trump images and slogans. Reddit personnel have since restored the moderator account to its rightful owner. The image above is how the subreddit appeared when the takeover was still active. The takeovers came five weeks after Reddit banned include /r/The_DonaldReddit banned include /r/The_Donald, a leading forum for fans of the president, and hundreds of other unrelated subreddits for violating recently rewritten content rules.

Reddit personnel published this post captioned, “Ongoing incident with compromised mod accounts.” Reddit personnel then warned that moderator accounts were being compromised and used to vandalize subreddits. It asked moderators of affected subreddits to report them in responses. At the time this post when live, the list of reported subreddits included:

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source:

Biz & IT – Ars Technica

At Talkspace, Startup Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns

The therapy-by-text company Talkspace — which has raised more than $100 million from investors — made burner phones available for fake reviews and doesn’t adequately respect client privacy, former employees say. From a report: The app launched in 2014 to positive press but lukewarm customer reviews, with ratings of about three stars out of five on both the Google and Apple app stores, according to a Times analysis. Users complained about glitchy software and unresponsive therapists. In 2015 and 2016, according to four former employees, the company sought to improve its ratings: It asked workers to write positive reviews. One employee said that Talkspace’s head of marketing at the time asked him to compile 100 fake reviews in a Google spreadsheet, so that employees could submit them to app stores. Mr. Lori (an ex-employee) said that Talkspace gave employees “burner” phones to help evade the app stores’ techniques for detecting false reviews. “They said, ‘Don’t do it here. Do it at home. Give us five-star ratings because we have too many bad reviews,'” Mr. Lori said.

Mr. Reilly, the Talkspace lawyer, disputed this account, saying that employees were free to write reviews any way they liked. “We alerted employees if they were to leave a review, to do it from their personal phones — not from the Talkspace office network, as that would cause issues with the app store,” Mr. Reilly said in an emailed statement. “To be clear: We have never used fake identities or encouraged anybody to do so; there is no event involving ‘burner’ phones, and the idea in and of itself is nonsensical relative to the large number of reviews outstanding.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot

Apple won’t let Stadia or xCloud into iOS, citing App Store guidelines

Androids only.

Enlarge / Androids only. (credit: Microsoft)

Cloud gaming is increasingly becoming a thing, one that lets you play AAA games on a device regardless of the hardware specs. If your device can stream a video, it can probably play Red Dead Redemption on Google Stadia or Halo on Microsoft’s xCloud (which is now technically called “Cloud gaming (Beta) with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate“). If your device is an iPhone or iPad, though, you’re out of luck. Apple says these apps violate its App Store policies and will not be allowed into Apple’s walled garden.

Apple sent a statement to Business Insider:

The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.

Apple’s App Store pitch is that it has real, live humans personally review each app for safety and quality, giving users a single, trusted place to get all their apps. Apple wants to approve these games individually and let users rate them individually through the App Store. The guidelines Apple cites flatly ban showing “store-like interfaces” on a remote computer and “thin clients for cloud-based apps,” which Stadia and xCloud both run afoul of.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source: Tech – Ars Technica

Gates Foundation Teams Up With Vaccine Maker To Produce $3 Covid-19 Shots

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it is backing the world’s largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India, to churn out 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine for poorer countries and price them at less than $3. From a report: The move comes as governments around the world, including the U.S. and U.K., strike vaccine production deals with the manufacturers of a handful of promising, late-stage vaccine development projects. The Gates Foundation as well as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — an organization which helps negotiate and finance vaccines for poor countries — said they would back privately held Serum Institute, or SII, to speed up the manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccine doses for the developing countries once any are proven effective. SII is one of several contracted manufacturers already tapped by AstraZeneca to make a vaccine in development at the University of Oxford.

The Pune, India-based SII is the go-to vaccine supplier for the World Health Organization and others and produces 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines every year, making it the largest in the world by volume. The three organizations said the collaboration will help ensure that lower and middle-income countries won’t be forgotten if a coronavirus vaccine is found. “Researchers are making good progress on developing safe and effective vaccines for Covid-19,” said Bill Gates in a statement. “But making sure everyone has access to them, as soon as possible, will require tremendous manufacturing capacity and a global distribution network.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot

Trump declares TikTok, WeChat “national emergency,” preps bans

If the Trump administration has its way, these logos will be scarce inside the US in a few weeks.

Enlarge / If the Trump administration has its way, these logos will be scarce inside the US in a few weeks. (credit: Ivan Abreu | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

The White House’s campaign against the China-based developers of popular apps escalated dramatically in the last day, as President Donald Trump declared both TikTok and WeChat to be national emergencies and said the administration will ban or curtail their operations in September.

Trump late Thursday signed a pair of very similar executive orders “addressing the threat” allegedly posed by TikTok and WeChat.

“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” both orders read. “The United States must take aggressive action against the owners” of the apps “to protect our national security.”

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source:

Biz & IT – Ars Technica

Massive Hack Hits Reddit

A massive attack has hit Reddit today after at least tens of Reddit channels (subreddits) have been hacked and defaced to show messages in support of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, ZDNet reports. From the report: The hacks are still ongoing at the time of writing, but we were told Reddit’s security team is aware of the issue and has already begun restoring defaced channels. A partial list of impacted channels (subreddits) is available below, according to ZDNet’s research: r/NFL, r/49ers, r/TPB (The Pirate Bay’s Reddit channel), r/BlackMirror, r/Beer, r/Vancouver, r/Dallas, r/Gorillaz, r/Podcasts, r/freefolk, r/StartledCats, r/TheDailyZeitgeist, r/Supernatural, r/GRE, r/GMAT, r/greatbritishbakeoff, r/11foot8, r/truecrimepodcasts, r/Leafs, r/weddingplanning, r/Chadsriseup, r/bertstrips, r/CFB …and many many other more.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot

US Government Contractor Embedded Software in Apps To Track Phones

A small U.S. company with ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities has embedded its software in numerous mobile apps, allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones world-wide, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter and documents it reviewed. From the report: Anomaly Six, a Virginia-based company founded by two U.S. military veterans with a background in intelligence, said in marketing material it is able to draw location data from more than 500 mobile applications, in part through its own software development kit, or SDK, that is embedded directly in some of the apps. An SDK allows the company to obtain the phone’s location if consumers have allowed the app containing the software to access the phone’s GPS coordinates. App publishers often allow third-party companies, for a fee, to insert SDKs into their apps. The SDK maker then sells the consumer data harvested from the app, and the app publisher gets a chunk of revenue. But consumers have no way to know whether SDKs are embedded in apps; most privacy policies don’t disclose that information.

Anomaly Six says it embeds its own SDK in some apps, and in other cases gets location data from other partners. Anomaly Six is a federal contractor that provides global-location-data products to branches of the U.S. government and private-sector clients. The company told The Wall Street Journal it restricts the sale of U.S. mobile phone movement data only to nongovernmental, private-sector clients. Numerous agencies of the U.S. government have concluded that mobile data acquired by federal agencies from advertising is lawful. Several law-enforcement agencies are using such data for criminal-law enforcement, the Journal has reported, while numerous U.S. military and intelligence agencies also acquire this kind of data.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot